A jury has found Texas yoga instructor Kaitlin Armstrong guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of her romantic rival Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours Thursday before reaching the guilty verdict.
The Wilson family and friends embraced as they cried together after the verdict, while Armstrong’s family appeared in shock. The defendant’s mother sat stoic as his father and sister both left the courtroom, the latter visibly crying.
Wilson, 25, was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at a friend’s Austin home on the night of May 11, 2022. The cycling prodigy was once romantically involved with Armstrong’s boyfriend, Colin Strickland , another professional cyclist, and was found shot to death hours after meeting him, police said.
Armstrong, 35, was arrested in June 2022 at a hostel in Costa Rica following a 43-day search and has been held on $3.5 million bail since then. She had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Wilson’s death.
The sentencing phase followed the verdict in the Austin courtroom, with the court hearing statements from witnesses including Wilson’s mother, father and brother. Sentencing deliberations are expected to resume Friday.
Wilson’s mother, Karen Wilson, told the court Thursday that her daughter was destined to “live, move, shine, listen, laugh and be such a unique person.”
Asked by prosecutors about the moment she learned of her daughter’s death, she replied between sobs: “It was the worst moment of my life. Since then, my life has never been the same. Everything is inside out. I will never be the same again.” “.
His father, Eric Wilson, compared it to a bad nightmare: “but it’s not a nightmare, it’s reality.”
“I think about it every night. If I sleep, when I wake up, it’s the first thought that comes to my mind. I live with it every day,” he said.
Her brother, Matthew Wilson, said his sister was his “closest confidante.”
“My sister lost her life for no reason,” he said. “She will never ride a bike again; she will never take a 20-minute break from work to make banana bread in her kitchen; she will never get married; she will never buy a house; she will never have children ;she will never meet someone she loves and…my parents will never be able to see that happen, see her enjoy her life.”
Caitlin Cash, who found Wilson bleeding on the floor of her home, described in court the guilt, PTSD, panic attacks and paranoia she has suffered since.
The defense also presented witnesses, including Armstrong’s father and sister, before sentencing.
Her father, Mike Armstrong, described his daughter as “strong” and “someone who doesn’t let things get to her.” He offered his condolences to the Wilson family, saying: “I know what we’re going through is terrible, but what they’re going through is worse.”
After calling nearly 40 witnesses during the two-week trial, Travis County Prosecutor Rick Jones told jurors during closing statements Thursday that there was “overwhelming” evidence that Armstrong supported on the trigger.
Prosecutors presented evidence that they said showed Armstrong’s 2012 Jeep Cherokee circling the block of the residence the night of the homicide, that his firearm was used in the homicide and that his DNA had probably been found on Wilson’s bike.
“Only Kaitlin Armstrong, the defendant, fits these facts presented to you through this witness chair,” Jones said.
Prosecutors also replayed audio Thursday of the moments Wilson was fatally shot — twice in the head and once in the heart “for good measure,” Jones said. They also showed jurors footage they said showed Armstrong trying to flee from deputies in the weeks leading up to the trial while being transported to an off-site medical appointment.
“She’s not just running from the sheriff’s department,” Jones told jurors. “She’s running away from you and you and you and you and you and you and you.”
Jones implored jurors not to venture down the defense’s “rabbit holes.”
In closing statements, the defense said Armstrong was “trapped in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.”
“There’s a lot of sizzle, but not a lot of steak,” defense attorney Rick Cofer said. “This is a case based on speculation; it relies on confirmation bias and a lack of direct evidence.”
Cofer said police focused on Armstrong to fit the easy narrative of a “scorned and jealous lover” and did not investigate other potential suspects in the case.
“It took portraying her as a jealous psychopath to create the motive,” Cofer said while refuting prosecutors’ characterization of her as a jealous girlfriend.
Defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear also refuted the state’s DNA and ballistics evidence and told jurors that Armstrong was free to go when she flew to Costa Rica days after being questioned by police regarding Wilson’s death.
In concluding their closing, prosecutors questioned why Armstrong used a fake name and passport to travel to Costa Rica and resorted to plastic surgery once there.
“These are all indicators of guilt, ladies and gentlemen,” prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez told jurors. “This is not someone who is having fun. This is someone who is a fugitive and is desperately trying to escape.”
Armstrong refused to testify during the trial.
Strickland took the stand and testified about his on-again, off-again “tumultuous” relationship with Armstrong.
ABC News’ Olivia Osteen, Meghan Mariani, Ketura Gray and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.
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