This Grandmother Tracked Down the Ex-Marine Who Allegedly Killed Her Daughter

Former bodybuilder and U.S. Marine, Raymond “R.J.” McLeod is the key suspect in the killing of Krystal Mitchell. He fled to Latin America following her murder in 2016 but was just arrested. 
Raymond McLeod, in a photo taken from the San Diego County District Attorney's website.

Josephine Wentzel, a grandmother and retired police detective, is not to be messed with.

After her 30-year-old daughter Krystal Mitchell was murdered in San Diego in 2016, Wentzel spent the next six years helping authorities conduct an international manhunt for the suspected killer: a former bodybuilding U.S. Marine named Raymond “R.J.” McLeod. 

McLeod’s time on the lam finally ended when he was detained in El Salvador last week, in part due to hard work by Wentzel.


“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,” said San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephens.

U.S. Marshals found McLeod at an English school in El Salvador, where he claimed he was Canadian and taught under the assumed identity “Jack Donovan” in the city of Sonsonate, about 40 minutes west of San Salvador. When Wentzel first heard the news of the arrest via text message from one of the lead investigators, she almost didn’t believe it.

“Are you serious? Is it really him? Did you look at him? Did you look at his tattoo? Are you sure?” Wentzel, 63, recalled asking the officer. “I was just not 100 percent sure because we've had so many close calls.”  

But after the news was confirmed, she felt “totally relieved”, especially when she got to tell her two grandkids that now live with her after Krystal’s death.

“I talked to the kids about it, and I said, ‘what do you feel? Talk to me about this?’ And my granddaughter said, ‘Nana, at least now I don't have to worry about him trying to find us and killing us,’” Wentzel told VICE World News over the phone from her home in Vancouver, Washington.


The arrest ended a long and heartbreaking saga for the grandmother and her family.

On June 10, 2016, Krystal was found dead in a San Diego apartment with “signs of a struggle”, according to authorities. McLeod, the last person believed to have seen Mitchell, reportedly disappeared south of the border immediately after.

Wentzel adamantly said that the former Marine wasn’t Krystal’s “boyfriend”, and instead she’d only known McLeod for a few weeks and were dating casually. The mother and daughter were very close and kept each other informed on each other’s lives.

“She would call me sometimes three times a day,” said Wentzel. “There was never a day that went by that we didn't talk. She was my confidante. I was her confidante, we were very close like that.”

She’d heard a bit about him from Krystal, who was a property manager in Phoenix. McLeod was a new tenant and would-be-suitor of the mother-of-two. Krystal often traveled to nearby San Diego to visit friends, and on one trip, she invited McLeod to join. It was only after McLeod allegedly murdered Krystal on that trip that her mother learned that he’d previously been accused of domestic violence by a former partner.


“He was out on bond for trying to kill his estranged wife,” said Wentzel. “They released a monster who had a history of violence.” 

After the initial hunt for McLeod went cold, Wentzel’s detective instincts kicked in. She’d worked as a detective in her native Guam for eight years before she stepped down from the force when she had her first child. 

While it’s been erroneously reported in the media over the years that Wentzel traveled throughout Latin America looking for McLeod, she actually said that she did all her hunting online. 

“I could not go physically, because I would have. I would have been there [Central America] in a heartbeat,” she said. “But I have two grandkids that Krystal left behind. They were five and six then.”

So she took to the internet. She began contacting hotels, posting in Facebook groups, and Marketplace. And it worked.

In 2017, she spotted McLeod in Livingston, Guatemala, dancing with a woman in a video a traveler posted online. He reportedly worked in a hostel, but by the time authorities got there, he was gone. He was next believed to be in neighboring Belize in 2018, but then he disappeared again.


For years, Wentzel continued searching online, posting in cities and towns in countries around Latin America. She wrote a book about the case and the hunt for McLeod and convinced the U.S. Marshals to put him on their 15 Most Wanted List with a $50,000 bounty. But for a long time, nothing worked.

She received tons of tips that she’d feed onto the Marshals that mostly ended up being duds. Beefy, tattooed, white gringos are common in Latin America. She even recalled one time having to talk down a woman from shooting a misidentified man in Belize in an attempt to get the award money.

As the hunt for McLeod continued on, Wentzel decided she could use her skills to help other families in need of help and formed an organization called Angels of Justice.

“I had both perspectives, I could speak for both sides,” she said. “I can speak on behalf of the police and I could speak on behalf of the families that aren't getting justice. I mean, look at myself. I had to go chase justice.”

The big break came after she did a long interview with Spanish language outlet Univision in 2021. Afterward, she began spamming the article anywhere she could online in countries around Central and South America. Someone saw one of the posts, recognized McLeod as a local English teacher in El Salvador, and contacted the U.S. Marshals.


On August 30, U.S. Marshals went to El Salvador and arrested McLeod at the English school he worked at. One former student at the school who spoke with a CBS affiliate in San Diego showed a photo posing with McLeod, and claimed that he’d been his teacher for two years beginning in 2017.

U.S. Marshals immediately brought McLeod back to San Diego, where he is currently being held without bail. He pleaded not guilty during his first arraignment.

For Wentzel, all the long hours paid off.

“There were family members who wanted me to find relief somewhere, give up, stop being this way. Just be a grandma,” she said. “But I refused to give up.”