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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Texas Woman Charged in Pro Cyclist’s Death Pleads Not Guilty

Crime

Kaitlin Armstrong | Image by Harris County Sheriff's Office

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An Austin woman charged with the murder of professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson pleaded not guilty to the crime during her first appearance in court on Wednesday.

Wilson, 25, was found with multiple gunshot wounds in a friend’s home in Austin on May 11. She had been shot twice in the head and once in the chest. According to Austin police, first responders performed CPR on her but later pronounced her dead at the scene.

After an autopsy was conducted, officers determined the cause of the death was homicide.

Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, was interviewed by detectives in connection with the murder. Investigators said that surveillance video showed Armstrong’s 2012 Jeep Cherokee outside the home where Wilson was killed.

The footage was time-stamped only one minute after Wilson entered the building. When confronted with the video evidence on May 14, Armstrong apparently could not give officers an explanation for her presence in the area and admitted that the situation “doesn’t look good.”

Armstrong was released after questioning per protocol; however, she reportedly fled Texas, leading authorities to launch a high-priority manhunt for her, focusing on Texas, New Jersey, and New York.

Police said they had found passports in her purse when they seized two of her phones before she fled.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the U.S. Marshals and the Texas Fugitive Task Force conducted a fugitive search for Armstrong. About 43 days into the manhunt, she was captured in Costa Rica on June 29.

Authorities discovered that Armstrong had boarded a United Airlines flight in New Jersey to Costa Rica using a passport belonging to her sister, Christine Armstrong.

Christine Armstrong is not facing any criminal charges as it is not clear whether she knew her sister had taken her passport.

Authorities found that Kaitlin Armstrong apparently used several aliases and disguises as she moved around Costa Rica and established herself as a yoga instructor. It took a door-to-door, six-week search of San Jose hostels for her to be found.

The fugitive was apprehended at a secluded spot called Don Jon’s Surf and Yoga Lodge in the small town of Santa Teresa after locals identified her in a photograph shown to them by police.

Police said Armstrong had cut her red hair and dyed it brown. She had also reportedly undergone a nose job, as investigators stated they found a $6,350 receipt for a cosmetic surgery under another name among her belongings.

To further conceal her identity, Armstrong apparently used three aliases: Ari Martin, Liz Martin, and Beth Martin, police claim.

Teal Akerson told authorities he met “Ari Martin” and went on several dates with her. She told him that she was trying to heal from a “traumatizing breakup” and was not ready to get closer to him, he said.

Akerson told the Austin American Statesman that he knew about the Wilson murder case, but he did not realize “Ari” was the wanted suspect because she looked so different. He said she preferred to go to secluded spots and had a bandage on her nose, which she had told him was from a surfing accident.

“I didn’t put any of it together; you wouldn’t imagine it,” explained Akerson. “After it all happened, and I heard what she was really doing and running from, it made sense why she didn’t want to be seen.”

After her arrest, Armstrong was returned to the U.S. to face a first-degree murder charge. She also faced an additional charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, but it was dismissed by a federal judge.

During the investigation, authorities discovered that Wilson had dated the suspect’s boyfriend, cyclist Colin Strickland, in the past, while Armstrong and Strickland had been on a break. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Wilson had gone swimming with Strickland on the day of her murder.

Strickland, 35, is not a suspect and has cooperated with the police investigation. In a police interview on May 12, he confirmed he had gone out with Wilson, though he was dating Armstrong and had been living with her for about three years.

He also said he had deleted text messages between himself and Wilson and changed her name in his phone so that Armstrong would not know of their communication.

A friend of Wilson’s, however, told police that Armstrong had called Wilson multiple times and told her to stay away from Strickland.

On the day of Wilson’s murder, Strickland said he picked the victim up from her friend’s apartment on his motorbike at 5:45 p.m. and dropped her off at 8:36 p.m.

While out with the cyclist, he had texted Armstrong to tell her that his phone had died while he was running errands for another friend. All the while, Armstrong had allegedly been tracking the two cyclists with “Strava,” an app that shows cyclists’ and runners’ routes.

After the shooting, police seized two firearms, which Strickland said he had purchased for himself and Armstrong between December 2021 and January 2022.

According to authorities, ballistics testing on the firearms revealed a “significant” probability that one of the guns had been used in Wilson’s murder: shell casings from the gun were found in the room where Wilson was shot.

Police also said that Armstrong visited a gun range with her sister before Wilson’s murder.

On Wednesday, Armstrong’s lawyers filed a motion for a quick trial, which was granted by District Judge Brenda Kennedy. The trial is set to begin on October 19, with jury selection starting on October 24.

Judge Kennedy’s decision came despite arguments from prosecutors that it would put Armstrong’s case ahead of other murder trials that have been slowed by over two years by the pandemic.

“I don’t know what kind of privilege this particular defendant has, to cut in front of all of these people who have been waiting for trial,” a state attorney remarked, according to DailyMail Online.

The state attorney added that the quick setting would not give enough time for investigators to gather evidence for the trial.

Armstrong’s attorney, Rick Cofer, however, told the judge that there is more to the story. He claimed Armstrong’s defense will show that Austin police investigators did not gather sufficient evidence.

“If they chose to indict without evidence, that’s the district attorney’s problem,” Cofer said, per CBS 11.

Cofer also accused prosecutors of presenting “inaccurate and misleading information” in order to obtain an arrest warrant and alleged that two key officers assigned to the investigation had mishandled the case.

Outside the courtroom, the attorney cited questions to reporters that appeared to relate to Armstrong’s defense.

“Why did the Austin Police Department seemingly ignore a tip about the former boyfriend of Miss Wilson?” Cofer asked. “Who vandalized the home of Kaitlin Armstrong and Colin Strickland on the night of Wilson’s death — and why?”

The information given in the supposed tip Cofer mentioned is unclear, as are the circumstances regarding the apparent vandalism of Armstrong and Strickland’s home.

Armstrong is currently held in a Travis County jail with her bond set at $3.5 million. She faces up to 99 years in prison if convicted of the murder.

On July 7, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Armstrong was charged with an additional count of misuse of a passport. Her court appearance on that charge is yet to be determined.

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