Suspected Cyclist Killer Used Fake Passport, Hair Dye, and Bandage Disguise to Escape Capture

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Instagram/Department of Justice
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Instagram/Department of Justice

A Texas woman accused of fatally shooting a rising professional cyclist after becoming enraged over the woman’s relationship with her live-in boyfriend has been captured in Costa Rica after 43 days on the run.

Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, the amateur cyclist and yoga teacher, faces charges for the May 11 killing of 25-year-old Anna Moriah Wilson, a Vermont native who was in Austin for an upcoming race. On Wednesday, after over a month on the run, Armstrong was captured at the Santa Teresa Beach hostel in Provincia de Puntarenas, officials said.

Her arrest marks the end of a coordinated, multi-agency effort to track down the 34-year-old, whom authorities say carefully orchestrated a plan to go off the grid. When caught, Armstrong had changed her appearance. Her uneven shoulder-length hair had been dyed dark brown, and she had bandaging on her nose along with bruising under her eyes after an apparent surfing accident, Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla told KXAN.

‘Vanished Into Thin Air’: The Search For a Romantic Rival Accused of Murdering a Cyclist

“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.”

Armstrong will now be deported and return to the United States to face charges related to Wilson’s death. Authorities say that two days after Wilson was found shot dead in an Austin apartment, Armstrong sold her black Jeep Grand Cherokee to a CarMax dealership in south Austin for $12,200.

“Armstrong was provided a check from the dealership a day after being questioned by Austin authorities,” the U.S. Marshalls previously said in a statement. “She departed the Austin airport on May 14.”

Investigators believe that Armstrong took a flight from Austin International Bergstrom Airport that afternoon to Houston, before boarding a connecting Southwest flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Armstrong was last seen being dropped off at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18—one day after Austin police issued a homicide warrant for her arrest in connection with Wilson’s murder.

Authorities say that “using a fraudulent passport,” Armstrong boarded a United Airlines flight from Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica. Filla added on Thursday that while the passport itself was authentic, it belonged to some else who looked “very similar” to Armstrong.

In Costa Rica, Armstrong was “frequenting yoga studios to better enhance herself with the profession” and investigators believe she planned to “establish that next part of her career” on the island, Filla said.

“The Marshals Service elevated the Kaitlin Armstrong investigation to major case status early in this investigation, which likely played a key role in her capture after a 43-day run,” U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau said on Thursday. “This is an example of combining the resources of local, state, federal and international authorities to apprehend a violent fugitive, bring an end to that run and hopefully a sense of closure to the victim’s family.”

Debra Cronin, who used to be married to Wilson’s grandfather, told The Daily Beast she was “so glad that bitch has been caught.” Cronin previously said that Wilson was a part of her life for 15 years and was horrified at the thought that Armstrong could get away with murder.

Dave Allen, who went to high school with Armstrong in her hometown of Livonia, Michigan, previously told The Daily Beast that she was “quiet” and “friendly” and “hung out mostly with the jocks.” He was surprised that she had decided to go on the run.

“I’m not sure why her dad didn’t convince her to do the right thing,” Allen said.

Authorities say the grim saga began on May 11, when police received a call around 10 p.m. from one of Wilson’s friends who discovered her with multiple gunshot wounds. Officers pronounced Wilson dead shortly after.

Prior to her death, Wilson had allegedly gone swimming and out to dinner with Colin Strickland, whom she had briefly dated. Wilson is believed to have returned home from hanging out with Strickland at around 8:36 p.m.

Footage from a neighbor’s security camera obtained by Fox 7 showed a “dark-colored SUV” drive past the friend’s house at 8:37 p.m.

“The dark-colored SUV then slowed down, appearing to come to a stop, directly next to [the friend’s] residence,” according to a probable cause affidavit for Armstrong’s arrest. “The SUV appeared to have a large bicycle rack mounted on the trailer hitch of the vehicle, a luggage rack mounted on the roof, and what appeared to be chrome around the windows. No other vehicles were observed on video surveillance passing by until marked emergency vehicles arrived.”

The following day, authorities went to Strickland’s house and found a 2012 Jeep Cherokee “with a large bicycle rack mounted on the trailer hitch of the vehicle, a luggage rack mounted on the roof, and chrome around the windows that appeared to be the same vehicle observed on surveillance footage.”

During a police interview, Strickland said that he and Armstrong had been together for about three months. He also admitted to briefly dating Wilson in October 2021. Armstrong was briefly interviewed by police after they discovered she had an open misdemeanor warrant on a theft of services charge.

“Armstrong was confronted with video evidence of her vehicle, [and] she had no explanation as to why it was in the area and did not make any denials surrounding the statements presented to her,” the affidavit said about the interview, noting that she was eventually released after detectives determined the warrant “was not valid.”

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