His students in El Salvador knew him as “Jack Donovan.”
But a photo of their English teacher depicted notorious murder suspect Raymond “RJ” McLeod — one of the US Marshals’ most wanted fugitives who was finally busted in his classroom after a six-year international hunt offering a record $50,000 reward.
The picture of the musclebound Marine vet in a classroom emerged as prosecutors announced Friday that McLeod, 37, was back in San Diego, Calif., and had been arraigned on a charge of murdering his girlfriend, Krystal Mitchell, in 2016.
The 5-foot-11, 245-pound bodybuilder had been seen slapping Mitchell in a bar before the killing — fleeing the country before her beaten and strangled body was found, prosecutors said.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit on Friday called it “one of the most violent murders I’ve ever … seen.”
The fugitive was finally busted Monday in a classroom in the small Central American city Sonsonate, where authorities now believe he’d been teaching under the fake name for at least two years.
“This week, this defendant’s brazen attempt to evade justice was over,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said at a Friday press conference.
The DA stressed “the X Factor in this case was Josephine Wentzel, Krystal’s mother,” calling the retired Guam Police Department detective “an inspiration.”
“She was never going to give up, and she was doggedly determined to bring the man who killed her daughter to justice,” the DA said.
“Josephine is simply a force of nature, and as I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again — he messed with the wrong mother.”
Wentzel couldn’t hide her joy, admitting that “after six years” she “wasn’t too sure” her daughter’s accused murderer would ever be found.
“Yes! I got him!” the mom declared, pumping her fist in victory.
“And he’s not gonna get away again. He’s never going to be released from that jail if I can have something to do with that,” she said after the captured fugitive was ordered held in custody at his arraignment.
Over the years, McLeod was traced to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, always managing to stay one step ahead of those chasing him.
Last year, the Marshals Service intensified the hunt — making him the first-ever fugitive on its “15 Most Wanted” list with a $50,000 reward.
The breakthrough came Aug. 20 when US Marshalls were tipped off “someone resembling McLeod” was teaching English at the Sonsonate school, officials said.
Investigators were wary at first since previous tips appeared to be “trying to throw us off,” Chief Deputy US Marshal Joseph O’Callaghan said.
Two marshals flew to El Salvador on Saturday and “determined the individual inside the school was in fact Mr. McLeod, going by the name of Jack Donovan,” O’Callaghan said.
“El Salvadorian law-enforcement officials took McCloud into custody inside the classroom from where he was teaching,” he said, without revealing if any of his students were in the room at the time. McLeod admitted his true identity, the officials said.
Having already determined he was in the Central American country illegally, US officials were able to deport him in just a day.
O’Callaghan also called Mitchell’s mom “a driving force in this arrest.”
“Without her staying… on top of his case, this would have been significantly more difficult for us,” he said, saying she was now “family with the US Marshal Service.”
Despite her own six-year hunt coming to an end, hero mom Wentzel immediately offered support to other families facing similar heartbreak, telling them: “Never give up.
“And if there’s any way that I can help anyone please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you find justice as well,” she added.
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