Kaitlin Armstrong was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the death of Moriah Wilson, a professional cyclist who briefly dated Ms. Armstrong’s boyfriend and was killed. while visiting Austin, Texas, for a bike race 18 months ago.
State District Judge Brenda Kennedy said Ms. Armstrong was found guilty by the jury, which deliberated for about two hours. It was unclear when Ms. Armstrong would face sentencing.
Rickey Jones, the state’s attorney, said in his opening statement that Ms. Armstrong was “not happy” that her then-boyfriend, Colin Strickland, had contacted Ms. Wilson. Mr Strickland and Ms Armstrong had an “on and off” relationship and lived together, Mr Jones said, and during a down period in October 2021, Mr Strickland had briefly dated Ms Wilson.
Ms. Wilson was found unconscious and bleeding from gunshot wounds in her friend’s apartment on May 11, 2022, and was pronounced dead at the scene. She had gone swimming with Mr. Strickland a few hours before his death.
Mr. Jones said Ms. Armstrong’s Jeep was seen near the apartment less than an hour before gunshots were heard. Ms. Armstrong also owned a handgun that was used in the shooting, Mr. Jones said.
The Austin Police Department named Ms. Armstrong, now 35, as a suspect and issued a warrant for her arrest six days after the murder of Ms. Wilson, 25. By then, Ms. Armstrong had left Texas for New York and would soon fly to Costa Rica, where she evaded authorities for 43 days and attempted to establish herself as a yoga teacher, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Weeks before the trial began, Ms Armstrong attempted to escape from custody, leading prison officers on a brief chase.
Ms. Wilson, who lived in San Francisco and grew up in Vermont, was a rising star in the world of cycling, particularly in the discipline of gravel, a mix of mountain biking and road cycling, before she was killed. She won a 137-mile off-road race, the Belgian Waffle Ride California, by an incredible 25 minutes in April 2022 and had recently decided to quit her job as a demand planner at Specialized Bicycles to focus on cycling full time.
Ms. Wilson, also known as Mo, was looking forward to months of intense racing when she traveled to Austin in May 2022 for the 150-mile Gravel Locos near Hico, Texas, she said. she told VeloNews, a competitive cycling magazine, earlier that month. .
Mr Jones said that on the day Ms Wilson was killed she went for a three-mile bike ride and then visited Deep Eddy Pool with Mr Strickland, 36, also a professional cyclist.
Mr. Strickland said in a statement in May 2022, after Ms. Wilson’s death, that during his visit to Austin, their relationship was “platonic.” That month, Ms. Wilson’s family also said in a statement that she had “no romantic relationship with anyone” at the time of her death.
Mr. Strickland testified at trial that Ms. Armstrong had access to his financial records, emails and Instagram account because she ran a business for him, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Ms. Armstrong’s lawyers said during the trial that police named Ms. Armstrong as a suspect too quickly and that someone else could have killed Ms. Wilson. Ms. Armstrong did not testify.
Rick Cofer, Ms. Armstrong’s lawyer, said the accusations against her were based “on speculation, confirmation bias and a lack of direct evidence.”
Mr Cofer said suggesting Ms Armstrong killed Ms Wilson because she was jealous was an easy narrative for prosecutors. “Jealousy is a fundamentally human emotion,” he said.
The day after Ms. Wilson died, police questioned Ms. Armstrong about the death, after discovering she owned a Jeep similar to the one seen outside the apartment. She was released.
Ms. Armstrong then sold her black Jeep Grand Cherokee for $12,200 and flew to New York on May 14, 2022. Three days later, Austin police issued an arrest warrant. And on May 18, she used a fraudulent passport to travel to San Jose, Costa Rica, from Newark, New Jersey, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Ms Armstrong was on the run for 43 days before being arrested in Costa Rica in June 2022, after changing her appearance and attempting to start a yoga teaching business. She was found at a hostel on Santa Teresa Beach in Puntarenas province on Costa Rica’s west coast, the US Marshals Service said.
Ms. Armstrong had used multiple aliases in Costa Rica and had cut her hair and dyed it brown, Brandon Filla, a deputy U.S. marshal, said at a news conference in July 2022. When she was arrested, she also had a bandage on her nose. and discoloration under her eyes, which she believes was caused by a surfboard accident, Mr. Filla said. During the trial, the prosecution said Ms Armstrong had undergone plastic surgery in Costa Rica.
Ms. Armstrong was extradited to the United States and arrived in Austin on July 5, 2022. She pleaded not guilty later that month.
As the trial approached, Ms Armstrong attempted to escape from police custody on October 11.
Kristen Dark, a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said Ms. Armstrong ran from two corrections officers as she left a medical appointment and took about a block and a half before she ‘be taken back.
Jesus Jiménez reports contributed.
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