Josephine Wentzel: Retired detective who hunted down daughter's killer wants 'violent monster' to face harsh justice
SONSONATE, EL SALVADOR: Raymond 'RJ' McLeod, 36, was apprehended in El Salvador after six years on the run, according to Josephine Funes Wentzel, who shared the news in an emotional breakdown to The US Sun. McLeod, a former Marine with a history of domestic violence, was sought in connection with the death of Krystal Mitchell, Wentzel's daughter, in June 2016.
Prior to her death, Krystal, 30, and McLeod had only recently started dating. While visiting friends in San Diego, the mother-of-two was discovered dead in her shared apartment. After the murder, McLeod disappeared, escaping through Mexico and Central America.
He was deemed to be so dangerous that US Marshals imposed the highest-ever reward on him and put him on their list of the Most Wanted. Wentzel, a veteran investigator, stepped out of retirement to work with the US Marshals Service, uncovering tips and pursuing leads. She was determined to make sure his trail never went cold and that authorities never forgot about her daughter's tragedy. Her relentless efforts paid off on Monday, August 29, when McLeod was apprehended in Sonsonate, a few days after she assisted in identifying him from a blurry photo sent to authorities by a tip.
When she first heard of McLeod's arrest, Wentzel described it as "surreal," and now that he is actually in jail, she is experiencing a range of emotions. "Of course, I'm ecstatic that he's been found and that this part is over, but at the same time, you're reminded of why you're there in the first place," said Wentzel, 63. "There's no victory yet until he's been given a life sentence, and that's now going to be a whole other journey, another chapter. I'm grateful to close this chapter, as are my family and grandchildren. We're grateful that we weren't forgotten and that the US Marshals went out there, invested money and time, and showed us that Krystal was worthy of justice. But it's not over yet," she continued.
McLeod is still being held in custody in El Salvador and is anticipated to be extradited to the US to face charges for the murder of Krystal.
McLeod was out on bail at the time of the murder after being charged with criminal harm to his estranged wife in Riverside, California. That lawsuit is still pending. In 2009, he also entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated violence and a charge of breaking a restraining order. Later, as part of a plea agreement with McLeod, the charge was dropped in exchange for his finishing a domestic violence counseling course.
Despite never having seen the accused killer of her daughter, Wentzel claims that during the course of her inquiry into McLeod over the last three years, she has been able to form a distinct and unsettling picture of the man.
Wentzel claimed that even before learning of her daughter's awful demise, she had a dreadful sensation that something terrible had occurred. "I just knew something was wrong. I woke up that morning, and everything just felt off. It's hard to explain, but it's like the spirit inside my body was half in and half out. I didn't know what was causing it, but I knew something was bad, so I called some of my friends and asked them if they could pray for me. Well, unbeknownst to me, my daughter was laying there dead," Wentzel told the US Sun.
McLeod, according to Wentzel, is a "dangerous and crazy man" who enjoys hurting other people and is emotionless and conscienceless. "Even as this story is breaking now, I'm being contacted by women in his hometown thanking me for saving them and finally putting him away. This guy was a very bad guy. I went to Arizona and looked up all his records ... he's a very violent person and a bully too. But what scares me most is that there's no conscience there. Now that he's locked up, I told the Department of Homeland Security, 'I don't care if you take 10 years to file the charges against him, just keep him in a cage.' Just keep him there ... and to tell you the truth, I hope we don't even have a trial. I hope he's taken care of somewhere in jail instead," she claimed.
When Krystal Mitchell first met McLeod in the late spring of 2016, he was managing properties in Phoenix, Arizona. The mother of two, whose children were ages six and seven, had recently ended a long-term relationship with another man who, in Wentzel's words, was "refusing to let her go and stalking her."
She was in her office when bodybuilding fanatic McLeod, who had recently come from California and was looking for an apartment, entered. Soon after, the two began corresponding, and they later began dating. The couple decided to spend the weekend visiting friends in San Diego after only a few weeks of dating.
She claims that the only thing she knew about McLeod was that, in the days before he started dating Krystal, he had allegedly been gazing uncomfortably at her through the window of her office. Apparently, Krystal recounted this to her mother over the phone at the time.
After struggling for months to accept that Krystal would never come back home, Wentzel switched her focus to the man police suspected of killing her. Having worked in law enforcement for around eight years a few decades earlier, she used her experience to hunt her daughter's killer down. To continue the investigation, she pestered the US Marshals Service and even the White House. Additionally, she looked into information, pursued clues, and raised awareness about her daughter's abduction throughout Latin America. She spent extended periods of time in several Central American nations searching for McLeod on the ground by herself. Eventually, after six hard years, US Marshals received a tip from a local lady who had seen McLeod.
Summer Stephan, the San Diego district attorney, announced McLeod's arrest on Monday and credited Wentzel for helping to bring him to justice. "This defendant's brazen attempt to evade justice is over, and the work to hold him accountable in a court of law for the murder of Krystal Mitchell can now begin," Stephan said. "Huge credit goes to the victim's mother, who never gave up searching for her daughter's killer and worked closely with our office and other law enforcement to make this arrest possible."