Josephine Funes Wentzel traveled to San Diego and Phoenix this week to help authorities renew attention to her daughter’s case
VANCOUVER — It’s been almost two years since Vancouver resident Josephine Funes Wentzel got the phone call that every parent fears.
“Every parent sleeps with a phone by their bed,’’ said Wentzel. “When that phone rings in the middle of the night, all you think about is ‘my kid, my kid, my kid. What’s happened now?’’’
Wentzel’s call didn’t actually come in the middle of the night, but the fact that it came in the waking hours of the day did little to alter its devastating effect.
“This call was just not meant to happen,’’ Wentzel told ClarkCountyToday.com. “It should have never happened.’’
Wentzel’s call came from San Diego Police Homicide Detective Sgt. Matt Dobbs, who informed her then husband Michael that her 30-year-old daughter Krystal was dead.
“I didn’t have to hear anything,’’ Wentzel said. “I just started screaming. I said, ‘it’s not true. It’s not happening.’ It was so painful I can’t describe the pain of losing a child to murder. It was a brutal murder.’’
Krystal Mitchell, a graduate of Mountain View High School who spent most of her life as a resident of Vancouver, was murdered on June 10, 2016. Sgt. Dobbs informed Wentzel that her daughter was found dead in a bedroom of a San Diego home that belonged to friends Krystal and her boyfriend were visiting.
Mitchell, then a resident of Phoenix, AZ, often visited San Diego. It was one of her favorite destinations. She made this particular trip with Raymond (R.J.) McLeod. Mitchell had been dating McLeod for just a few weeks according to her mother.
Mitchell was an apartment manager in Phoenix. That’s how she met McLeod. Through the application process at the apartment complex, Mitchell was privy to the results of a credit check and a background check on McLeod. Wentzel said Mitchell told her not to worry because McLeod’s background check didn’t reveal any felony convictions.
“He came to her as a charming individual,’’ Wentzel said of McLeod. “He was in the Marines. His family was established in the Scottsdale (AZ) area, so that meant some stability. He had a child who he supposedly loved and adored and that was appealing to a single mom. He was kind and loving. He even gave her a gun to protect herself.’’
But, something obviously went wrong on the trip to San Diego, which came to an end with Mitchell’s death and McLeod being named a prime suspect by the investigating authorities.
“I believe she found out what he was like and tried to leave him and he killed her,’’ Wentzel said.
Despite McLeod’s “clean’’ background check, Wentzel said it was later revealed that he did have a misdemeanor charge in Arizona by a former wife who obtained a restraining order against him. There was another incident of violence against a woman in California just three months prior to Mitchell’s death.
‘He shouldn’t have been on the streets,’’ Wentzel said. “This guy is violent. He’s killed in the past. If you’ve gone down that road and you think you’re getting away with murder, you’re going to kill again.’’
A plea from the authorities
Video courtesy of Fox 5 TV San Diego
Wentzel was in San Diego this week on a media blitz designed to renew attention to the case, which has yet to be solved. After the events scheduled in San Diego this week, Wentzel and others were scheduled to move on to Phoenix for more events aimed at finding McLeod, who is believed to have fled to South America.
Wentzel, a former detective herself, has done everything she could to help authorities find McLeod.
“He fled to Mexico and they found the rental car abandoned,’’ said Wentzel, who said she has received tips that McLeod was in Belize in December 2016 and Livingston, Guatemala in February 2017. She said the leads have drawn cold since.
“We’ve been able to get other tips but by the time we caught up with him he was already gone,’’ said Wentzel, who is also currently raising Mitchell’s two young children. “Somebody is warning him. Somebody is tipping him off.’’
This week while Wentzel joined them at events in San Diego, that county’s top law enforcement official, District Attorney Summer Stephan, joined the U.S. Marshals Service, San Diego Police Department and Phoenix Police Department in asking for the public’s help to locate McLeod, who is wanted for the murder of Mitchell.
“We’re not going to let this defendant run from justice and get away with murder,” said Stephan in a press release issued by the Office of the District Attorney County of San Diego. “We’re asking anyone with information to come forward so McLeod can be captured, returned to San Diego and held accountable for his brutal crime. Let us not forget the innocent victim who lost her life.”
Detectives from the San Diego Police Department’s Homicide Unit determined that Mitchell was last seen alive with McLeod. The District Attorney’s Office has charged McLeod with murder and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Authorities are withholding details of the murder, but say there were signs of struggle at the murder scene.
Video courtesy of Office of The District Attorney County of San Diego
“Catching McLeod will not bring my daughter back, but would prevent this monster from killing someone else’s mother, daughter or sister,” Wentzel said. “It would also mean that Krystal’s children can sleep at night, knowing he’s been stopped. McLeod has a history of extreme violence against women and even a small child. His tendency is to stalk his victims and strike when they least expect it. He is a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment and I hope the public will take action and help us bring him to justice.”
The U.S. Marshals Service is leading the manhunt and is poised to follow up on any information about McLeod’s whereabouts. Steve Jurman, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force Commander, said, “The U.S. Marshals and all our partner agencies are using every resource to locate and arrest McLeod. There is no better law enforcement tool than the public’s help and vigilance to locate fugitives from justice. This murder was so senseless and violent that even McLeod’s friends have cooperated with police to help try to help.”
“Raymond McLeod came to San Diego and committed a brutal crime,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “McLeod fled San Diego and even the United States, however detectives in our Homicide Unit will continue working each and every lead in this case and will not stop until McLeod is behind bars. Our partnership among multiple law enforcement agencies along with the public’s help will ultimately result in McLeod’s capture.”
McLeod is a former United States Marine who may have access to weapons. McLeod is a white male, 34-years-old, 5-feet-11 inches tall, weighs 245 pounds, and has multiple, recognizable tattoos on both of his arms. McLeod also goes by the nickname of “RJ” but may be using the name “Matt” or “Mateo” in attempt to hide his identity. McLeod may have put on weight and is likely to have a beard.
Anyone with information on this murder or the location of Raymond McLeod is asked to call the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477, or log onto www.SDCrimeStoppers.org for information on how to send anonymous web and mobile app tips. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward in addition to the U.S. Marshals Service who is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest in this case. Anonymous email and text messages can be sent via www.SDCrimeStoppers.org. You can also download the CrimeStoppers app in order to send in a tip.
Mitchell was born in Pasadena, CA, and moved to Vancouver with her family when she was “8 or 9 years old’’ according to Wentzel. As a youth in Clark County, Mitchell enjoyed playing soccer. Later, she enjoyed hiking and biking.
“She moved away about four years ago because she wanted a warm climate,’’ Wentzel said. “She was just a funny girl. She was kind. She was helpful. She was extremely thoughtful. She never forgot an important day — Mother’s Day, birthdays — she was always planning a month ahead of time.
”Everybody loved her,’’ Wentzel said. “This never should have happened. This guy was not meant to be in her life.’’
Wentzel said the nearly two years since her daughter’s death has been a “constant emotional ride.’’
“I have to be strong for the kids,’’ she said. “I don’t want this guy to take any more than he has already taken from us. I have to fight. I have to move forward to reassure my grandkids that everything is going to be OK.
“I want this chapter to be closed,’’ Wentzel said. “The pain will never end. There’s no such thing as closure. The only thing that closes in situations like this is cases. But, for a parent the pain goes on forever and ever. You can never forget your child.’’
Wentzel leans on her faith to get her through.
“I have peace in my heart that she is with God,’’ Wentzel said. “We miss her dearly. Her children miss her. That’s why we’re doing this.
“Tomorrow is not guaranteed,’’ she added. “Have your relationships today. Tomorrow could be a lot worse. What has happened here is a parent’s worst nightmare.’’