Kaitlin Armstrong has been returned to the U.S., where she will await trial for the first degree murder of Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson, a rising star in the gravel cycling world. Now, details are emerging about Armstrong’s apprehension in Costa Rica, where she fled just days after Wilson’s death.
Wilson was tragically shot and killed on May 11 after traveling to Austin, Texas, to participate in Gravel Locos, where she was favored to win the race. As more details around her death came to light, implicating Armstrong—the girlfriend of gravel racer Colin Strickland—in Wilson’s shooting, the cycling world was shaken.
After being interviewed by the police on May 12, Armstrong was allowed to leave due to a clerical error in an old warrant. Armstrong sold her Jeep—the one that had allegedly been used to drive to the home where Wilson was staying—to a local CarMax dealership for $12,200 on May 13, before flying to LaGuardia Airport in New York, on May 14.
Armstrong was then seen entering Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18, which is when the U.S. Marshals reported “losing her footprints in the sand.” They didn’t realize just how literal that statement would end up being.
She was finally apprehended on June 29 in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, a small beachside town best known for its yoga teacher training programs, yoga classes, tourist-friendly restaurants, surfing lessons, and quiet dirt road that leads into and through the town.
How did Armstrong get to Costa Rica? She used a real passport—but not her own. “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,” Brandon Filla, Deputy U.S. Marshal said in a press conference, as reported by VeloNews. “So that was a fraudulent use of it, but it wasn’t fraudulent in itself because it was issued to a certain individual.”
While Filla wouldn’t disclose the name on the passport due to the ongoing investigation, Inside Edition reported that Zachary Paulsen, who was staying in Don Jon’s Yoga Lodge where Armstrong was apprehended, showed its reporter two passports that were left in Armstrong’s locker post-arrest: her own and one from her sister Christine Armstrong, who she reportedly visited at Camp Haven in New York, before leaving for Costa Rica.
Paulsen added that there was also “a $6,350 receipt for cosmetic surgery under another name.” Reports are mixed regarding the plastic surgery allegation: Some sources have said Armstrong claimed to have injured her nose and acquired two black eyes in a surfing accident. But changing her appearance wouldn’t be surprising, considering she also dyed her reddish-blond hair to dark brown and cut it shorter. The booking photo obtained by Fox News after her return to the U.S. does look markedly different than her original photo circulated by the U.S. Marshals.
So, what was she doing in Santa Teresa? Trying to make her money stretch by staying in a hostel, speculated Paulsen, but also trying to create a new life for herself—and continuing her yoga practice. “It looks like she retreated back to her hobby, her career of being in the yoga practice. We believe she was trying to learn new yoga, possibly to instruct,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Filla added during the press conference, as reported by Inside Edition. (Armstrong wouldn’t be the first American to move to Santa Teresa to teach yoga: It’s a popular place for American ex-pats to teach yoga or live relatively inexpensively as digital nomads.)
The U.S. Marshals claim to have received dozens of tips indicating Armstrong would be in Costa Rica.
“Once she got to Costa Rica, she didn’t really move around a lot,” Filla said during the press conference. “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.”
The exact order of events leading to her capture have been reported slightly differently across different outlets. According to the Daily Mail, Armstrong was captured when local police in Santa Teresa “ran a background check on a name she gave them during a stop in town, and found no record of her entering the country… She then admitted her real name, which officials found in a database that revealed there was a high priority arrest warrant for her.”
After she was apprehended, Armstrong was transported by Costa Rican authorities to Centro de Aprehensión Regional Central, a prison in Los Lagos, according to CNN. Then, over the holiday weekend, she was transported back to the U.S. and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. Footage from the George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, shows her being flanked by two officers and placed into a waiting van.
Now, Armstrong will face the charge of first degree murder as well as a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Her bail has been set at 3.5 million dollars and would include GPS monitoring and an 8 p.m. curfew, according to Fox News.
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