Kaitlin Armstrong’s ongoing trial in Texas heard contradicting statements on why she was allowed to walk free following a very short police interview regarding the murder of rising pro cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson.
Ms Arsmtrong made national headlines last year after she fled the country in the days following Wilson’s murder in May 2022. Prosecutors said during opening arguments last week that Ms Armstrong, a former yoga instructor, had targeted the victim out of jealousy because Wilson and Ms Armstrong’s then-on-and-off boyfriend Colin Strickland had become romantic.
Austin Police Department detectives led the homicide investigation and conducted interviews with Mr Strickland and Ms Armstrong, who lived together at the time. Just a day after the murder, surveillance video was recovered of Ms Armstrong’s black Jeep near the scene of the crime, as well as a restaurant where Wilson and Mr Strickland dined on the night of the murder.
Mr Strickland was interviewed by APD detective Richard Spitler for nearly six hours and was allowed to leave after a search warrant was issued for his home. Meanwhile, Ms Armstrong was arrested over an unrelated, ongoing “theft-of-service” warrant and brought in for questioning over Wilson’s death.
Footage of the interview was played in court on Wednesday as APD detective Katy Conner took the stand, according to NewsNation correspondent Alex Caprariello. In the video, Det Conner tells Ms Armstrong that there was an error with her date of birth on the warrant, but goes on to question her for 30 minutes about the murder.
After refusing to answer the detective’s questions, Ms Armstrong was allowed to leave. Later that night, she boarded a New York-bound flight and eventually fled to Costa Rica, where she remained on the run for 43 days until she was finally arrested.
When criticism emerged last year of authorities’ failure to keep Ms Armstrong under arrest, or at least under surveillance, the department said that it had to release Ms Armstrong due to the technical error with the warrant, KVUE reports.
However, Det Conner walked back from that assertion while on the stand on Thursday, saying that the warrant was correct all along. It remains unclear if Ms Armstrong was freed as part of a questioning strategy by police, or why the department maintained its position that there was an error in the aftermath of Ms Armstrong’s escape.
Among other revelations made during the trial was that Ms Armstrong fled the county using her sister’s passport, which was found in her belongings after her arrest in San Jose. Law enforcement personnel who testified last week also said that while serving a search warrant at Mr Strickland’s home, they had spotted and photographed Christine Armstrong’s passport and foreign currency.
Following her interview with Ms Armstrong, Det Conner filed a request for a DNA warrant for Mr Strickland and Ms Armstrong, but the latter was nowhere to be found.
On Wednesday, the defence attempted to raise issues with Det Conner’s failure to read Ms Armstrong’s Miranda rights during that interview. Ms Armstrong’s attorneys tried to seize on the confusion surrounding the arrest and the following questioning, but the judge said that matter had been dealt with before the trial began - in favour of prosecutors.
In video of the interview, Det Conner tried to persuade Ms Armstrong to give “her side of the story,” but Ms Armstrong reiterated that she wanted to leave. The detective went on to tell her that Mr Strickland talking and that she would also like to hear what Ms Armstrong had to say.
Det Conner also confronted Ms Armstrong about the surveillance video of her Jeep.
“I would like to leave if I am free to leave ... I would like to leave if I am free to leave,” Mr Armstrong is reportedly heard saying.
Wilson was found lying dead in a pool of blood on 11 May 2022 by her friend Caitlin Cash, who testified last week in the highly-publicised trial. Just hours before she was killed, Wilson had gone swimming and had dinner with Mr Strickland, whom she had bonded with over their passion for professional cycling.
Ms Armstrong has pled not guilty to the charges.
She faces 99 years in prison if convicted.