A woman suspected of killing a professional cyclist over a romantic entanglement was captured in a Costa Rican hostel on Wednesday, officials say, ending her 43-day run from authorities.
The slaying of Wilson, a 25-year-old rising star in gravel racing, sent shock waves through the cycling community and drew national attention after authorities announced they suspected Armstrong had shot Wilson over a love triangle with another pro cyclist, Colin Strickland, 35.
The mystery deepened after Armstrong, a yoga teacher and real estate agent who shared a residence in Austin with Strickland, was spotted at Newark Liberty International Airport then seemingly vanished about a week after Wilson’s death.
Authorities now say she used a fraudulent passport to enter Costa Rica, where she was found holed up in a hostel. Armstrong will be deported and sent back to the United States, the marshals service said.
Elevating the investigation to “major case status” early in the process likely contributed to her capture, Susan Pamerleau, the U.S. marshal for the Western District of Texas, said in a statement.
“This is an example of combining the resources of local, state, federal and international authorities to apprehend a violent fugitive, bring an end to that run and hopefully a sense of closure to the victim’s family,” Pamerleau said.
Wilson, a college skier from Vermont who turned full-time competitive cyclist, had been involved with Strickland for about a week last fall after his split with Armstrong, his girlfriend of three years, according to a police affidavit. Strickland, though, rekindled his relationship with Armstrong and they were living together.
In May, Wilson had traveled from San Francisco to Texas to compete in Gravel Locos, a race in the Hill Country town of Hico. She stayed at a friend’s home in East Austin but met up with Strickland on the afternoon of May 11 to go swimming, the affidavit said.
After having dinner, Strickland dropped off Wilson at the home around 8:36 p.m. A minute later, a dark-colored SUV with a bike rack was captured by surveillance footage stopping next to the same residence. It appeared to be Armstrong’s car, according to the arrest warrant. According to the affidavit, Wilson was found on the bathroom floor by a friend, who performed CPR.
Strickland, who has not been charged with or accused of any crime related to Wilson’s death, told the Austin American-Statesman in May that “there is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime.” He said he and Wilson had not been romantically involved since last fall.
On May 12, police brought Armstrong in on an unrelated warrant and questioned her about Wilson’s death. She could not explain why her car was in the area at the time of the shooting and told investigators that she “didn’t have any idea” that Strickland had been with Wilson recently, according to the affidavit.
Despite the misdemeanor warrant, Armstrong was released from police custody due to a technical error.
In the following days, two tipsters told police that Armstrong had warned Wilson to stay away from Strickland and shook with rage in January when she discovered the pair had maintained contact. Armstrong allegedly told the second tipster that she was so enraged that should could kill Wilson and shared that she had either purchased a firearm or intended to buy one, according to police. Strickland told detectives he had purchased pistols for himself and Armstrong around that time.
When police compared shell casings fired from Armstrong’s handgun to the ones found near Wilson’s body, they found “significant” potential that her firearm was linked to the shooting.
Austin police issued the warrant charging Armstrong with first-degree murder on May 17. But by that time, Armstrong had fled the state. The U.S. Marshals’ Lone Star Fugitive Task Force said it found Armstrong’s black Jeep Grand Cherokee last week and learned that she had sold the vehicle on May 13 to a CarMax dealership in south Austin for $12,200.
They said the dealership gave Armstrong a check a day after she was questioned by Austin police.
A day after Austin police issued a homicide warrant for her arrest, Armstrong flew out of Newark, according to U.S. Marshals Service.
Authorities said she likely flew from Austin to Houston and then to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. They didn’t specify how she got to Newark’s Airport.
It’s unclear if Armstrong has legal representation. Her father told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in May that he did not believe his daughter was capable of committing murder.
Wilson, a Vermont native, had won several races this year and was a favorite to win the Gravel Locos competition, according to Velo News, a cycling magazine. Following her death, her family announced a fundraiser in her name and urged that the race go on.
“We hope everyone feels her passion and support as they chase their own dreams,” they wrote. “Her spirit will be there with you all, while training and on every race day.”