AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kaitlin Armstrong, the woman accused of killing cyclist Moriah Wilson, was captured at a Costa Rica hostel Wednesday over a month after the murder.
U.S. Marshals said it worked with Homeland Security and authorities in Costa Rica to find her at the hostel on Santa Teresa Beach, which borders the Pacific Ocean. She will be deported and returned to the U.S.
Travis County court records show Armstrong’s bond will be set at $3.5 million. She will be required to surrender her passport to a district clerk before release and have a GPS in jail. Her curfew will be 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., according to records.
Investigators found Armstrong, 34, used a phony passport May 18 to board a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey to San Jose, Costa Rica, according to U.S. Marshals.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla told KXAN Armstrong was found with an altered appearance. Armstrong had shoulder-length hair that had been dyed dark brown, along with bandaging on her nose and bruising under her eyes from a reported surfboarding incident.
“That physical appearance changed slightly,” Filla said. “Would it have changed more as she started to create that, you know, type of foundation for herself there in Costa Rica? Possibly.”
Filla credited “boots on the ground” law enforcement techniques and collaborations with international operations in locating her at the hostel. Officials conducted door-to-door visits, surveillance and face-to-face interviews that helped lead to her capture.
He said it’s believed Armstrong was staying at the hostel to help make her money last. The U.S. Marshals’ investigation revealed she had been frequenting several yoga studios and taking classes at them “to better her profession to teach a specific type of yoga,” he added. That type of yoga had something to do with surfing, which might have explained her facial bruising, Filla said.
In the six-week investigation, Filla said U.S. Marshals fielded more than 80 tips, some of which he said provided valuable insight into her background and location.
“Some of those [tips] were not, you know, there wasn’t anything to them except a possible sighting, but some of them were very factual. They gave us a background picture of Kaitlin Armstrong that we were able to connect a few pieces to understand a little better.”
As for the length of the investigation, Filla said the 43-day fugitive hunt was unusual in its nature, with the added layers of complexities that came from the fraudulent passport use. He said the U.S. Marshals’ early upgrade of the case to a higher priority acted like a theme park “fast pass,” allowing marshals to more quickly track down her whereabouts.
“This is a challenge that, you know, we haven’t seen in quite some time, to where an individual left the country using a fraudulent document,” he said. “But we were able to handle that challenge with the assistance of the international operations with the marshals service, where they have that communication established with foreign officials and diplomatic security.”
Before, U.S. Marshals knew she was given transportation to the airport in Newark, but no flight reservations were found in her name.
Prior to the May 18 flight, Armstrong was seen on surveillance video at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on May 14, where she boarded a plane to Houston, then got on a connecting flight to New York.
The murder took place May 11, according to past reports from Austin Police. Wilson was shot and killed at a home off Maple Avenue in east Austin. The world-class cyclist was in Texas preparing to compete in a race. Wilson was originally from Vermont.
Austin Police questioned Armstrong after the murder but did not arrest her at the time, U.S. Marshals said.
Wilson’s family released a statement Thursday, writing they are “relieved to know this phase of uncertainty” is behind them.
We’d like to thank the Austin Police Department, Detective Spitler, Jacqueline Berrelleza, the U.S. Marshals, and all other parties and individuals involved for their diligence in locating and apprehending Kaitlin Armstrong. We’re relieved to know this phase of uncertainty is now behind us, and we trust that justice will prevail. We’d like to ask for the media to respect our privacy at this time, as they have over the last six weeks.Wilson family statement
Austin Police issued a warrant for Armstrong’s arrest on May 17, a few days after she had already fled the state. Armstrong also sold her black Jeep to a CarMax dealership in south Austin on May 13 before leaving Texas, U.S. Marshals said.
A federal arrest warrant for Armstrong was obtained on May 25 for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.