Jury hears opening statements in trial of woman accused in fatal shooting of elite cyclist

Opening statements were delivered in an Austin, Texas, courtroom Wednesday in the trial of Kaitlin Armstrong, the woman accused of fatally shooting 25-year-old elite cyclist Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson in Texas in May 2022.

Armstrong has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in Wilson’s killing, an act prosecutors have alleged was fueled by romantic jealousy.

“The last thing Mo did on this Earth was scream in terror,” prosecutor Rickey Jones told the jury. “Those screams are followed by Pow! Pow! Two gunshots – one to the front of the head, one to the side of the head that hits the index finger as it passes. You won’t hear any more screams after that.”

Audio from surveillance footage captured the sound of the screams, Jones said.

Defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear said Armstrong is a “woman trapped in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.”

“You won’t hear – and you didn’t hear – about any camera footage showing Kaitlin Armstrong at the scene of this shooting, despite there being tons of cameras in the area,” Puryear told the jury. “Not one captures Kaitlin Armstrong at that scene.”

Armstrong also faces a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. She traveled to Costa Rica immediately following Wilson’s death and was missing for more than 40 days.

“The Austin Police Department told her she was free to go. She was free to go,” Puryear said. “That’s what you will hear. You will hear that (she) is passionate about traveling.”

Armstrong got plastic surgery in Costa Rica before she was arrested and extradited to the United States in July 2022 to face charges, Jones said.

The opening statements were delivered just weeks after Armstrong attempted to flee custody during a doctor’s appointment, which resulted in an additional felony charge of escape causing bodily injury, according to court documents.

The shooting

Wilson was found dead in a friend's home in Austin, Texas, in May 2022. - Courtesy Wilson Family
Wilson was found dead in a friend's home in Austin, Texas, in May 2022. - Courtesy Wilson Family

Wilson, an elite cyclist, was days away from competing in the Gravel Locos bike race when she was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds on May 11, 2022, at the home of a friend, authorities said.

Earlier that day, Wilson told her friend she was going for an afternoon swim with Colin Strickland, 35, a professional cyclist and Armstrong’s boyfriend at the time.

He and Wilson went for a swim and had dinner before he dropped her off at her friend’s house without going inside, Strickland told investigators.

Strickland told the Austin American-Statesman that he had a brief romantic relationship with Wilson from late October to early November 2021, while he was separated from Armstrong.

Armstrong was searching for information about Wilson in the days and hours leading up to the killing, Jones said, noting that Armstrong lived with Strickland, whose texts were accessible through a laptop and iPad in their home.

Armstrong had searched for Wilson on an app called “Strava,” which is often used by outdoor athletes and can track a person’s location through GPS, the prosecutor said.

Surveillance video shows Armstrong’s Jeep pass the house where Wilson was staying about three minutes after Strickland dropped her off, Jones said. Though Armstrong’s phone was off, GPS data shows Armstrong’s Jeep circled the block multiple times around the time of the shooting, he added.

Days after Wilson was killed, Armstrong sold the Jeep at a CarMax, Jones said, citing surveillance footage.

On May 17, police issued a homicide warrant for then 34-year-old Armstrong, who was working as a real estate agent and yoga instructor in Austin. The affidavit for her arrest cited video surveillance showing a vehicle similar to hers near the home where Wilson’s body was found.

When investigators compared ballistics from the scene with those of bullets test-fired from a firearm Strickland had recently purchased for Armstrong, the “potential that the same firearm was involved is significant,” the affidavit states.

Costa Rica arrest and alleged escape bid

The day after police issued the initial arrest warrant for Armstrong, she was seen at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, according to the US Marshals Service, although no flight reservation was found in her name.

Armstrong used her sister’s passport to fly to Costa Rica, Jones said Wednesday.

On May 25, 2022, authorities issued a separate federal warrant for Armstrong for “unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.”

While in Costa Rica, Armstrong searched online for coverage of her own warrant, Jones told the jury. She then spent over $6,000 on plastic surgery, he said.

Armstrong was arrested on June 29, 2022, after she was spotted at a hostel in Costa Rica.

On October 11 this year, Armstrong attempted to escape custody when she was being escorted from a medical appointment by corrections officers, authorities say.

Armstrong had been “exercising vigorously” for months, before she broke free and led officers on a mile-long foot chase before being recaptured, according to an affidavit.

She had made a request for treatment for an injury that would allow her to attend an appointment outside the jail with her legs unrestrained, the affidavit states.

Armstrong ignored the sound of sirens and officers’ commands to stop as she ran, at one point attempting to scale a 6-foot fence, according to the document, which says two corrections officers suffered injuries to their arms and knees during the pursuit.

Armstrong was taken to a local hospital and then returned to sheriff’s office custody, authorities said.

A rising cycling star

Wilson was considered a rising star in the competitive cycling world. - Courtesy Wilson Family
Wilson was considered a rising star in the competitive cycling world. - Courtesy Wilson Family

A Vermont native, Wilson excelled at skiing in her younger years, before she started competing – and winning – in the cycling world.

She was focused on “gravel racing,” which combines elements of road cycling and mountain biking and has gained popularity as a competition sport in recent years.

profile in VeloNews published the day she died referred to her as “the winningest woman in the American off-road scene.”

“Moriah was a talented, kind, and caring young woman. Her life was taken from her before she had the opportunity to achieve everything she dreamed of,” Wilson’s family previously said in a statement.

CNN’s Raja Razek, Elizabeth Wolfe, Andy Rose, Chris Boyette, Hannah Sarisohn, Eric Levenson, Dakin Andone and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.

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