US Marshals intensify hunt for Kaitlin Armstrong with $5,000 reward
Manhunt for fugitive yoga teacher accused in love triangle murder is upgraded to a 'major case' as authorities are flooded with tipoffs
It has been nearly a month since 25-year-old victim Moriah 'Mo' Wilson was allegedly shot dead by Armstrong on May 11, in Austin, Texas.
The U.S. Marshals Service has announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture of a Texas woman accused of gunning down a professional cyclist in a love triangle involving her boyfriend, another rider. Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, is wanted in the shooting death of Moriah "Mo" Wilson, a California 25-year-old who police allege Armstrong shot in a friend’s Austin apartment ahead of a cycling competition in town.
Before her slaying, she’d spent part of the evening with Colin Strickland, Armstrong’s 35-year-old boyfriend. Investigators revealed Monday that Armstrong "was dropped off at the Newark Liberty International Airport May 18, a day after Austin police obtained a warrant for her arrest." But her name was not linked to any of the outbound flights from Newark airport at the time, Marshals said.
Armstrong allegedly flew from Austin to Houston and then New York’s LaGuardia Airport four days earlier, on May 14. Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla unveiled the reward Monday morning "for anybody who can generate a tip that leads to her whereabouts. Kaitlin Armstrong is accused of a very serious crime that she needs to answer for," said U.S. Marshal for the western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau.
Police issued a warrant for her address a $5,000 reward for 'anybody who can generate a tip' that leads to the whereabouts of Armstrong. Since then, at least 70 tips have come in to the Austin Capital Area CrimeStoppers and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
VIDEO: US Marshals announce reward for Kaitlin Armstrong
Filla said some of those tips 'have had some instrumental value that has assisted our investigation.'
Now that Wilson's murder case has been upgraded to 'major,' a wider budget, which will include more resources and funding, will be made available to Marshals to step up their pursuit.
Retired commander of the Marshal Service's Fugitive Task Force in New York and New Jersey Lenny DePaul said, "A major case is afforded money from our headquarters, funding to support the folks in the field with whatever they need — aviation support, if they need K-9 help...any type of support that's needed."
'When it's elevated like that, it's going to get a lot of attention,' he added. 'Your due diligence has to be made. It's an everyday effort from the lead investigators.'
Cases and searches handled by the USMS fall into three categories: regular fugitive cases, major cases and top 15 fugitives, DePaul explained that marshals assigned to major cases have 'a lot of manpower and money and state-of-the art equipment.
He further said that Armstrong 'had some time' to get away before she was officially named as the main suspect in the murder case.
'The bigger question is, is she in this country? Did stay local? Who did she know up here?' he said. 'Criminal investigators, fugitive investigators are going to have these answers as they're putting this puzzle together and connect the dots.'
A federal warrant for Armstrong's arrest has also been granted to Marshals, which give them 'a lot of jurisdiction and a lot of leverage,' according to DePaul.
Has Armstrong Fled the Country?
On May 14, three days after the murder, Armstrong was spotted on surveillance footage at New York's LaGuardia Airport, arriving from Houston. According to a press release from earlier this week, Marshals say that Armstrong was spotted at Newark's Liberty International Airport on May 18, the day after the Austin Police Department issued a warrant for her arrest.
However, according to passenger records, Armstrong was not listed on any outbound flights from Newark.
Deputy Marshal Brandon Filla said in an interview that investigators are looking into the possibility that Armstrong flew out of Newark under a fake name or was deliberately deceptive and had no intention of flying that day.
'There's a lot more people looking for her than I believe what she believes. We wanted to make it to where she always has to look over her shoulder,' Deputy Filla said. 'Somewhere along the way she'll make an error, she'll make a mistake, and we'll be able to exploit that to where we can bring her before justice.'
The deputy added that authorities know how Armstrong got to the airport but that they are not willing to release that information. A separate warrant from the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas was issued for Armstrong on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution after she fled the Lone Star State.
The 34-year-old suspect then vanished and has been on the run ever since.
Deputy of US Marshal and Western District of Texas spokesman Brandon Fila saold on Wednesday that if 'Kaitlin is out there watching this, listening to this or reading this information,' then 'she needs to surrender to law enforcement.'
'Safely surrender to law enforcement,' he added. 'Give your side of the story, because this is not going to go away.'