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Suspect in murder of off-road cyclist arrested in Costa Rica

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The suspect, Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, will be extradited to the United States.

PHOTO: US MARSHALS SERVICE

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA (NYTIMES) – A woman who had been named as a suspect in the murder of a rising off-road cycling star in Texas in May has been arrested in Costa Rica, the authorities said Thursday (June 30), ending a 43-day search.

The US Marshals Service said the suspect, Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, was found Wednesday (June 29) at a hostel in Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas on Costa Rica’s west coast.

She will be extradited to the United States.

Armstrong, 34, had been sought in the death of Anna Moriah Wilson, who competed in gravel cycling, a discipline that blends mountain biking and road cycling.

Ms Wilson, 25, died shortly after she was found unconscious and bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds at a friend’s home in Austin, Texas, on May 11.

The authorities in Costa Rica, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, Homeland Security Investigations and the US Marshals Office of International Operations worked together to locate and arrest Armstrong, who the Marshals Service said had used a fraudulent passport to fly from Newark, New Jersey, to San Jos?, Costa Rica, on May 18.

It was not immediately clear if Armstrong had a lawyer.

A police affidavit revealed that Ms Wilson and Armstrong had both been romantically involved with another cycling star, Mr Colin Strickland, 35.

The authorities said Ms Wilson, who was known as Mo, had been shot multiple times, and that the shooting did not appear to be random.

The police questioned Armstrong on May 13. She is believed to have boarded a flight to Houston the next day before travelling to New York, the Marshals Service said.

On May 18, a day after Austin police obtained a warrant to arrest her on a first-degree murder charge, Armstrong was seen at Newark Liberty International Airport, but there were no outbound flights booked under her name.

The Marshals Service, which said Armstrong was armed and dangerous, had offered a US$5,000 (S$6,950) reward for information leading to her arrest.

Additionally, Capital Area Crime Stoppers offered US$1,000 and an anonymous donor offered US$15,000, making the total reward US$21,000.

On the night Ms Wilson was killed, she and Mr Strickland had visited the Deep Eddy pool in Austin and had dinner together at a restaurant, according to the police affidavit, posted by the Austin American-Statesman.

Mr Strickland told the police that he dropped Ms Wilson off at her friend’s house and did not go inside. He told investigators that he had been in a romantic relationship with Ms Wilson last October during a one- or two-week break in his roughly three-year relationship with Armstrong, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said an anonymous caller told police that Armstrong had said in January that she wanted to kill Ms Wilson after learning that Mr Strickland was in a romantic relationship with her.

A vehicle similar to Armstrong’s was seen in front of the home in Austin where Ms Wilson was staying an hour before police responded to her friend’s 911 call, according to the affidavit.

Armstrong did not explain why her vehicle was near the scene of the shooting, police said.

According to the Marshals Service, Armstrong sold the car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, on May 13 at a CarMax location in Austin for US$12,200.

In December or January, Mr Strickland purchased two 9mm handguns, one for himself and one for Armstrong, the affidavit said.

A police analysis of Armstrong’s gun, which was recovered at Mr Strickland’s home, revealed that it had “significant” potential to be the one that was used to kill Ms Wilson, the affidavit said.

“There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime,” Mr Strickland said in a statement to the Austin American-Statesman. “I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy.”

Mr Strickland said he had a brief romantic relationship with Ms Wilson last fall “that spanned a week or so”, then reconciled with Armstrong.

He said he and Ms Wilson had not been in a romantic relationship after that, but had a platonic and professional relationship and would often see each other at cycling events.

“Moriah and I were both leaders in this lonely, niche sport of cycling, and I admired her greatly and considered her a close friend,” Mr Strickland said in his statement. “I am deeply grieving her loss.”

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