Josephine Wentzel is a retired police detective, but she came out of retirement the day she heard of her daughter's murder and swore to find McLeod.
A six-year search for the suspect in the murder of Krystal Mitchell has finally come to an end, and it is none other than the victim's mother who drove the case forward. Authorities are calling the victim's mother, Josephine Wentzel, a "driving force" in solving the cold case. The United States Marshals Service credited Wentzel with the arrest of Raymond Samuel McLeod Jr., accused of killing Wentzel's daughter Krystal Mitchell in June 2016.
Wentzel is a retired police detective, but she came out of retirement the day she heard of her daughter's murder and swore to find McLeod. "I pursued it and I started using people's tips. People were calling left and right," she told Inside Edition in an interview.
She says it is being a mother that pushed her for the last six years, assisting investigators, and following up on leads. "It's not about being a former detective. It's about being a mom," Wentzel told ABC. "It's that mama bear. It's that mom determination that I gave birth to this child and, so help me God, I'm going to take care of this child until I die."
The U.S. Marshals Service called Josephine Wentzel a "driving force" in the arrest late last month of Raymond Samuel McLeod Jr., who is accused of killing Wentzel's daughter Krystal Mitchell in June 2016. https://t.co/myLdvf9ZqE— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) September 7, 2022
Mitchell and her Arizona-based ex-boyfriend McLeod were on a trip to San Diego at the time of her murder. They were staying with friends while in town. Investigators claim that McLeod was the last person to see Mitchell before she was discovered dead in a bedroom, strangled. Since then, McLeod, a former Marine and bodybuilder, has been on the run and is one of the top 15 most wanted fugitives according to the U.S. Marshals. In a press conference announcing McLeod's arrest, Joseph O'Callaghan, chief deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service, said, "He really laid low and didn't pop his head up a whole lot. He obviously had some training in clandestine operations and things like that that I'm sure he referred to."
Authorities believe McLeod escaped to Central America via Mexico and over the years, there had been reports of sightings in Guatemala and Belize. The big break came when Wentzel used social media to post a Spanish-language story. That led to a tip from a woman in El Salvador who thought she recognized McLeod. According to O'Callaghan, McLeod was detained on August 29 as a result of this information, which led to the discovery that he was working undercover to teach English at a school in El Salvador. The San Diego County DA Summer Stephen said, "Huge credit goes to the victim's mother, who never gave up... and closely worked with our office... to make this arrest possible."
Wentzel, who took workshops to improve her knowledge of how to do online and social media searches, admitted that she wasn't always certain that her efforts would result in an arrest. "It was years of hard work, and to be honest with you, I wasn't sure," she said, adding that eventually, it was the attention from people that really helped. "The most important thing is to get their faces out in public."
For the last six years, Wentzel has been caring for her daughter's two children, and she claims to see her daughter's humor, beauty, and beautiful heart in them. She characterized McLeod's imprisonment as the end of one episode and the start of another. "This is one chapter closed. Now I have another chapter that I have to be involved in, and that's the justice system," said Wentzel. "I told the prosecutors that I hope they do their due diligence; I'm there to help make sure the case goes through ... and do whatever you can to make that happen because my family deserves that justice like that."
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Inside Edition