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A spokesperson from the U.S. Marshals’ office gave a press release Thursday afternoon, revealing details of Kaitlin Armstrong’s capture in Costa Rica.
Armstrong was apprehended by local authorities at a hostel in Santa Teresa beach in Costa Rica the night of Wednesday, June 29. The 34-year-old from Austin, Texas is wanted in the murder of professional cyclist Moriah Wilson and had been on the run for 43 days after a warrant was issued for her arrest in Austin on May 17.
Armstrong is currently in police custody in Costa Rica, awaiting deportation to the U.S. where she faces a first-degree murder charge, as well as the federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
According to Brandon Filla, Deputy U.S. Marshal, Armstrong used someone else’s passport to travel from Newark, New Jersey to Costa Rica on May 18. Before her capture, Armstrong had been spotted at Newark’s Liberty Airport that day, but her name was not found on any outgoing flight manifests.
Filla would not reveal the owner of the passport, citing the “ongoing investigation,” but did say that it was the actual passport of someone who looked very similar to Armstrong.
“That passport was a passport that was issued to someone else that was in very close physical description … that she used because she looked very similar to that individual,” Filla said in the press conference. “So that was a fraudulent use of it but it wasn’t fraudulent in itself because it was issued to a certain individual.”
Austin police issued a warrant for Armstrong’s arrest on May 17, the day before she flew to Costa Rica. 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 and then got on a connecting flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport.
Filla said that the Marshals interviewed a confidential source who said that Armstrong was dropped off at the Newark airport, but that the source didn’t know where she was going from there.
“We didn’t know if she [Armstrong] was being deceptive with that person [source], had been dropped off and maybe took some type of transportation outside the airport to disguise where she was going next.”
Later, Filla said, another source revealed that it was the first source’s passport that had been used to obtain the flight from Newark to Costa Rica.
During the press conference, Filla also stated that Armstrong had significantly changed her physical appearance, “cutting her hair to shoulder length and dying it to a darker brown color.”
Filla also said that he was told Armstrong had a bandage “over her nose area where she had claimed she had gotten into a surf accident recently.” According to Inside Edition, a $6,350 receipt for cosmetic surgery under another name was found in the locker with the two passports.
Filla said that Armstrong had been frequenting yoga studios in the area and taking classes at them “to better her profession to teach a specific type of yoga.”
“She was getting really ready to establish that next part of her career,” he added.
Armstrong, who was partners with professional cyclist Colin Strickland in a vintage camper restoration company, was also a realtor and yoga teacher in Austin.
According to Filla, one of the most significant paper trails in the case was Armstrong’s attendance at local yoga classes in Costa Rica.
“Once she got to Costa Rica, she didn’t really move around a lot,” he said. “We knew she was gonna be associated with some type of yoga studio. When foreign officials arrived at that yoga studio, they did find a handwritten login that was the same alias that she was going by when she traveled to Costa Rica.
“Once they developed that pattern, it really opened up things and they quickly closed in on Kaitlin Armstrong.”
Filla credited “boots on the ground” law enforcement techniques and collaborations with international operations in locating Armstrong at the Costa Rican hostel. He said that officials conducted door-to-door visits, surveillance and face-to-face interviews that helped lead to her capture.
In the six-week investigation, Filla said that U.S. Marshals fielded more than 80 tips, some of which he said provided valuable insight into her background and location.
“They weren’t tips that said, ‘hey this is where Kaitlin Armstrong is located,” they were valuable tidbit tips that led us to certain areas to really give us that background, who she was known to facilitate with in the past, her interests, that snapshot we needed to build the background,” he said.
Filla said that the heavy media and social media coverage, in addition to two anonymous donors contributing to the cash award, likely helped raise awareness of and interest in the investigation.
Filla said that he wasn’t sure if Armstrong’s plan to flee the US was premeditated but that Armstrong “was able to quickly facilitate means to get out of the US quickly.”
She was interviewed by Austin police on May 12, the day after Wilson’s murder, and an affidavit reveals that she neither denied nor confirmed the evidence that her vehicle was spotted at the scene of the crime. She was released from the interview due to a discrepancy with her date of birth in the police department’s computer system.
It was later learned that on May 13, Armstrong sold that vehicle to a CarMax dealership in Austin and was given a check for $12,200. On May 14, she flew from Austin to Houston and then to New York.
Filla said that the details of the extradition are being handled by “the republic of Costa Rica” which may decide to keep her in local custody based on the immigration violation of using a fraudulent passport. When she is returned to the US Marshals, she will then be extradited back to Travis County, Texas where the first-degree murder charge was filed.
Filla also added that no one else has been taken into custody in the case at this time.