Bodybuilding Marine Wanted For Murder, Could Be In Central America
Ex-Marine on the run for alleged brutal murder of girlfriend. The victim’s mother, who is also a former police detective, is digging up new clues in the case, but she needs your help.
Krystal Mitchell was known best by her family and friends as a great mom to her two young children. The boy and girl, only five and six, were the lights of Mitchell’s life. When she decided to cut ties with her ex-husband and make a move from Washington state to Phoenix, Arizona, she did so with an open mind and wanting to start a fresh life for her family.
Mitchell was someone who enjoyed the company of other people. She was fun-loving, hard-working — and now single. Her mother, Josephine Wentzel, tells In Pursuit, “She was very beautiful on the outside, but it didn’t interfere with who she was inside.”
Diana Olivares remembers this about her friend: “She just had this smile. She was just very funny and very bubbly and making jokes with everybody. She was like the life of the party.” Those who were close to Mitchell knew she loved her children, but what she was really focused on was finding a companion, someone she could share her life with. She aspired to have the type of relationship her parents shared.
NEW LIFE IN PHOENIX
Mitchell spent her days working in the front office of a large apartment complex. While at work, she connected with a man who lived in the building — a man with a striking presence. His name was Raymond “RJ” McLeod, Jr. Over time, McLeod’s visits by her desk became more frequent and more flirtatious, and eventually the pair went on a date.
It was easy for Mitchell to fall for McLeod. Her friends say he was her type — a body-building former Marine. The military connection was key because her sister is a Marine as well. He was also the father to a young boy and came from a successful family. Mitchell told her friends that Mitchell’s apartment was filled with photos of his son, and that warmed her heart. Her new beau appeared to be a doting, dedicated father.
Mitchell generally didn’t have to worry about the men she dated, especially because she had her mother, Josephine Wentzel, in her corner. Wentzel is a former police detective and always went to great lengths to protect her child. In her spare time, she admits, she would run background checks on the men Mitchell was interested in knowing better. But this time, Mitchell confided in her mother, she didn't need her help. Mitchell felt secure since she worked at the apartment complex, and she knew McLeod had to pass a credit and background check to live in his apartment. Mitchell felt there was no way the complex would let him have a unit in the building if he had a checkered past.
As the weeks passed, the pair went on only three dates before McLeod was ready to take their relationship to the next level. He asked Mitchell if she wanted to take an overnight trip to San Diego. Without hesitation, Mitchell said yes, mainly because it’s a place she’s always loved. The drive was only five hours from where they lived in Phoenix, and the couple had a free place to stay. “RJ mentioned to her, ‘Hey you know, I have this friend that has a wife that just had a kid, really nice couple. Let’s drive together,” Olivares recalls.
FATAL TRIP TO SAN DIEGO
On June 9, 2016, McLeod and Mitchell jumped in the car and drove to California together. Olivares says they hit the road around 3 P.M. and that was the last time she heard from Mitchell. Wentzel also said she got a text from her daughter around the same time letting her know that she was heading to Southern California.
The first evening in San Diego, the pair went out with McLeod’s friends, and hit a few bars for drinks. The couple arrived back at the place where they were staying in the early morning hours.
By the next morning, McLeod and Mitchell didn’t get up for breakfast, and the friends they were staying with became worried. When they went into the bedroom to check on the couple, McLeod was nowhere to be found and Mitchell was not breathing. She was in the bedroom and cold to the touch.
A MOTHER’S GUT INSTINCT
Although Wentzel had no idea what happened to her daughter at that point, she tells In Pursuit her gut knew something was wrong. “I woke up and I didn’t feel myself,” she said. After sending text messages asking Mitchell if she was okay, Wentzel said, “I started feeling sick to my stomach. I just felt like I wanted to throw up. I just felt sick, I was cold inside."
When police arrived on the scene of the residence in the 7600 block of Mission Gorge Boulevard, investigators were able to positively identify the body inside the home as 30-year-old Krystal Mitchell. There were obvious signs of a struggle, investigators added, and the search was on for her boyfriend, RJ McLeod.
Authorities said they had to break the devastating news to Wentzel who was hundreds of miles away in Washington state. At the time, she had Mitchell’s young children and was caring for them over the summer.“I felt like my – someone just punched me in the stomach so hard and I couldn’t catch my breath,” she remembers.
The hardest part came the next day when Wentzel had to break the devastating news to her grandchildren. She said she sat them down and told them, “Mommy went to Heaven. And my grandson said, ‘How?’ I couldn’t tell him that she was murdered. I couldn’t tell him. That was the hardest. That was the hardest thing to do.”
The San Diego Deputy District Attorney Jessica Lees tells In Pursuit,“When officers arrived on-scene, there were clear signs of a struggle. There was blunt-force trauma to her face and to her torso. It was determined that her cause of death was strangulation so vicious that the strangulation resulted in fractures to her neck.” Lees adds, “He used his own two hands to literally squeeze the life out of Mitchell.” San Diego Police Lieutenant Matt Dobbs says that based on their investigation, no one else was responsible for Mitchell’s death other than McLeod.
McLEOD ON THE RUN
As police began tracing McLeod’s steps, they figured out one of his first stops after the murder was the San Diego International Airport. Surprisingly, McLeod didn’t take a flight, but instead rented a car and fled to Mexico. Although investigators did a tremendous amount of work to find McLeod, Wentzel knew she could do more. As a former police detective on the island of Guam, she’d been involved in many investigations. She was ready to put her skills to work.
At first, she thought, “I’m going to go in Facebook and I’m going to find hotels and tourist places and I’m going to alert them.” If that wasn’t enough, she would reach out to people directly and ask, “Have you seen this man?"
After time passed and she spent her days and nights hunting down her daughter’s killer, she finally hit pay dirt: “I came upon a blogger who wrote a whole blog about meeting a man in Guatemala who was a former marine. And he was describing him about being drunk on drugs. That he had woke up about 5 in the morning and found him hitting on one of the women that were backpacking.”
She had another gut feeling that the man described was McLeod, so she took it upon herself to send over a photo of him to the person who wrote the blog. The blogger confirmed that it was, in fact, McLeod. Deputy U.S. Marshal Frankie Sanchez says this about the work Wentzel did: “She’s been tremendous. She’s done a great job with social media and really putting Mitchell’s case out there for the public to see.”
Although Wentzel helped to close in the fugitive’s timeline, local authorities couldn’t get their hands on him to make the arrest. By the time they got to the location, McLeod was long gone. Wentzel wants everyone to know: “He’s out in these nightclubs partying; drinking it up, having a good time, meeting other women. It’s very disturbing. He needs to be stopped. I am worried about the women out there.”
"He is charming, he is deceiving, he is a liar, and he is a viper," Wentzel has said of McLeod. “He’s a monster. He’s a horrible person. He will do it again in a heartbeat,” Olivares adds.
Investigators note that in 2016, McLeod was charged with domestic violence against his first wife and his son. Reports say he reached a plea agreement and attended a domestic-violence diversion program. McLeod is currently charged with murder in Mitchell's case. When he allegedly committed this act, investigators say he was out on bond for another domestic-violence charge involving his second wife.
Over the months following the murder, McLeod has been seen in Belize and Honduras. March 2017 was the last time McLeod was on anyone's radar. At the time, he was in Guatemala.
Wentzel’s passion to find McLeod has not faded — “My message to Raymond Samuel McLeod, Jr: I’m never going to stop looking for you, never, until I bring an end to this."
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Weight: 245 pounds
- Height: 5 feet 11 inches
- Age: 34
- Eyes: Hazel
- Date of birth: October 3, 1983
- Hair: Brown; sometimes bald
- Nickname: “RJ”
- Alias: Matt or Mateo
- Former Marine
- May have grown a beard
- Many tattoos: on his chest, arms, iron cross on right arm, spiderweb on right elbow, large skull on right arm, fall out symbol on right arm, script across chest
- Known to visit gyms and work out regularly
- Known to use cocaine, steroids, and drink heavily
- Knows how to use guns from his military experience
- May be armed and dangerous
- Known to hang out in expat communities and frequent nightclubs, strip clubs, and bars
If you know anything about this case, please contact our hotline (833-3-PURSUE) or submit a tip online.
For more on this case, watch the “Deadly Poser” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, January 30 at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.