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US Marshals made fake yoga instructor ads in Costa Rica to catch Kaitlin Armstrong

After the murder of Moriah Wilson, Kaitlin Armstrong disappeared in June 2022. Deputy U.S. Marshals Damien Fernandez and Emir Perez went to Costa Rica, spurred by a tip suggesting Armstrong’s presence in a small village called Santa Teresa. According to a new report from “CBS 48 hours”, the agents encountered a series of frustrating dead ends during their intensive search.

A new strategy to locate Kaitlin Armstrong

Despite days of relentless pursuit yielding no results, the U.S. Marshals, determined to exhaust every avenue, tried something different. Knowing she had been a yoga instructor before fleeing, they decided on a new strategy. Recognizing the difficulties posed by the small, tourist-filled village, they decided to place ads for a yoga instructor, hoping to draw Armstrong out of hiding.

Yoga ads to find the killer

Perez explained their rationale, stating, “We decided we were gonna put an ad out… or multiple ads for a yoga instructor and see—what would happen,” as recounted to “48 Hours” host Jonathan Vigliotti. Still, after a week of diligent efforts, there were no results. Perez and Fernandez figured they would have to go back home. However, just when it seemed like all hope was lost, a breakthrough occurred.

Kaitlin Armstrong in Costa Rica

One month post-disappearance, the marshals, now in pursuit in a different region of Costa Rica, received information suggesting Armstrong’s potential refuge in a small village along the Pacific coast.

Everyone resembled Kailtin Armstrong

“So you get to Santa Teresa,” Vigliotti said. “Was it easy to identify her there from the other people that were there?”

“I think from the get-go we were told,” Fernandez said. “You’re gonna be in for a surprise because a lot of the women in Santa Teresa look just like Kaitlin–a lot of them.” The advice about the abundance of women resembling Kaitlin Armstrong in Santa Teresa proved accurate.

So many tourists

The town, bustling with foreign tourists, became the focus for Deputy U.S. Marshals Fernandez and Perez, who arrived after dark. Navigating through the limited roads, Fernandez and Perez walked down the main strip, the sole road in the town, observing the main road and surroundings.

Colin Strickland said he didn’t really know Kaitlin Armstrong

“He sees a girl and he says, you know, that looks just like her. Well, a couple of minutes later, we see another one,” Perez said. “And it’s late at night and we’re like, whoa, oh, man, that’s two. And then there’s another one.”

Female agent takes yoga

In their pursuit of Armstrong, the U.S. Marshals went to the extent of deploying a female operative to attend yoga classes, hoping to identify and locate her. She ended up taking three different classes for the feds, while they also chatted with the locals.

“Oh, yeah. We made friends with people there that would send us pictures. Oh look, I—I think I saw her at this restaurant yesterday and she’s in the back in the background of a photo that I took, stuff like that,” Fernandez said. “In fact, people had seen Armstrong at local spots in Santa Teresa, but they didn’t realize who she was. Armstrong was hiding in plain sight using different names.”

The Kaitlin Armstrong spotting

“We got a bite, somebody that, um, identified herself … as a yoga instructor and said they wanted to meet with us at a particular hostel,” Perez said. “And we said … ‘this is, this is our chance!’”

Perez and Fernandez hurriedly returned to Santa Teresa, just ahead of the arrival of a tropical storm. The team led by Lieutenant Juan Carlos Solanos from the Tourism Police collaborated with the U.S. Marshals in the quest for Armstrong.

The hostel

They conducted surveillance on a hostel named “Don Jon’s,” where the suspected yoga instructor, responding to the online ad, was thought to be located.

“Yes, this is where she was staying; she was staying here,” Solano said. They opted for Perez to approach the woman solo, aiming to avoid alarming her. He would pretend to be a tourist.

Confronting Kaitlin Armstrong

“So I walked up… and I got in,” Perez explained. “And I saw two individuals sitting there at a table, off to the left, as soon as I walked in. She looked like Kaitlin, but not 100 per cent. So I thought, well, how can I approach her or get close enough where I start asking questions where she doesn’t suspect something, So, I decided that I was gonna speak to her in Spanish. So I spoke to her in nothing but Spanish.”

The bandaged face

“So, I got a little closer bcause I saw that she was trying to get to Google Translate on her phone and she’d raised it up to me and I got even closer,” Perez said. And I noticed that she had a bandage on her nose and possibly her lips were swollen. and I saw her eyes. The eyes are the exact same ones that I saw in the picture. And this is her 100 per cent.”

“He gets in the car, and he is like, ‘That’s her. She’s in there,” Fernandez said.

Her face wasn’t her face

And that was that. Local authorities took action and arrested her. U.S. Marshals would later unravel the mystery behind Armstrong’s elusive nature: she had undergone plastic surgery during the initial period of their arrival in Santa Teresa.

Armstrong is currently serving 90 years in prison for the murder of Wilson.

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