Josephine Funes Wentzel has spent the past few years crossing international borders in hope of one day finding the man authorities believe beat and strangled her daughter to death in 2016.
Wentzel, who served as a detective in the Guam Police Department for six years, resided in Barrigada and Dededo before she relocated to the States.
She has spent the last half-decade seeking justice for her daughter, Krystal Mitchell, who was found dead while vacationing with her boyfriend, Raymond "Matt" McLeod, in San Diego.
"It's going on five years," said Wentzel. "Krystal had just turned 30."
Krystal was born in Pasadena, California, and had never been to Guam.
She was a single mother of two young children when she decided to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona.
"She was there working as an apartment manager," Wentzel said, as she confirmed that McLeod and her daughter met while he was searching for an apartment to rent.
Wentzel said Mitchell told her about McLeod in 2016.
"He was going in and out of the office. She would call and say this guy keeps coming in here and staring at me. I said just be careful and watch out for this guy. ... She knew that every time she dated someone I would go and do a background check," she said. "This time she said to me, 'Well mom, he was referred to us by another apartment agency. They did one background on him and then referred to us, and our office does a background (check). So, I guess he's not a felon. You don't have to check.' But, really, that's the one I should have checked."
Wentzel said, had officials performed a thorough background check, "they would have discovered that he was involved in domestic violence, and they would have discovered that he was out on bond for trying to kill his estranged wife."
Wentzel said Mitchell had also been in a toxic relationship prior to meeting McLeod.
"She was the ideal victim for this guy, who comes across as a very smooth talker, a charmer, a father. His son is the same age as Krystal's son and he was everything she was looking for in a person. She decided there's no harm to date," she said.
The pair had only dated for about three weeks when they decided to spend some time away in San Diego.
"They went out there and he killed her," Wentzel said. "The detective said to us there was an altercation at the club. Apparently, McLeod punched somebody and they left the club. So, knowing my daughter and, I can swear on the Bible on this because I know her that well, she went back to the place and was grabbing her stuff to leave. They had driven there from Arizona with her car, so what I believe happened – I know with all my heart, soul and mind – that she was going to get out of there. That's when he stopped her and beat her and strangled her to death."
Krystal Mitchell's mother has been at it nonstop helping law enforcement to track down McLeod.
"It's something you don't expect. The guy is a former Marine. He gave her a gun to protect herself," she said. "After he killed her, he took her car and dumped it over in San Diego airport, his family wired him $10,000 and he fled in a rental car and dumped it in Mexico. Then, from Mexico he made his way into Belize."
Multiple reported sightings took Wentzel on a journey to countries in Central America including Guatemala and Honduras.
"It's been an adventure just dealing with terrorists and all kinds of people over there," she said. "It was a wild, wild ride."
'I plan to go back on full force again'
Wentzel has since started Angels of Justice, an effort launched to help in the search for Krystal Mitchell's killer, as well as to help other families struggling with unsolved cases.
"I realized there was a lot of injustices being done and a lot of cases open and cold cases. I need to help as many people as I can," she said, as she works alongside the Cold Case Foundation.
Wentzel said she now cares for Mitchell's 10- and 11-year-old children.
"I pride myself in solving cases, so when it came to me I thought that is what I am going to do," she said. "I didn't want to pursue the chase again until after COVID was lifted because it would just be a waste of my time and frustration. Now, after this show, I plan to go back on full force again and hit up Central America. I've started reaching out to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I am just going to keep on. If I don't catch him, I am going to make his life a living hell."
Krystal Mitchell's story has been shared nationally over the years, and will be featured on an episode of "America's Most Wanted" set to air April 5, Wentzel said.
"I want to find him," she said. "I am just hoping and praying that this show will lead to a capture because I want to end this. I just want to end the search."