Kaitlin Armstrong was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the death of Moriah Wilson, a professional cyclist who had briefly dated Ms. Armstrong’s girlfriend and was killed while visiting Austin, Texas, for a bike race 18 months ago.
State District Judge Brenda Kennedy said the jury returned the guilty verdict against Ms. Armstrong after deliberating for about two hours. After the verdict was handed down, several witnesses were called to testify as the court sought to determine what the verdict will be before going into recess in the late afternoon.
It was unclear when Ms. Armstrong would be convicted. Her attorney declined to comment, citing a gag order in the case, which drew international attention as details of the investigation and Ms. Armstrong’s whereabouts slowly emerged.
Rickey Jones, a state prosecutor, said in his opening statement that Ms. Armstrong was “not happy” that her boyfriend at the time, Colin Strickland, had communicated with Ms. Wilson. Mr. Strickland and Ms. Armstrong had an “on-again, off-again” relationship and lived together, Mr. Jones, although he had briefly dated Ms. Wilson in an off period in October 2021.
Mrs. Wilson was found unconscious and bleeding from gunshot wounds in a friend’s apartment on May 11, 2022, and was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been swimming with Mr. Strickland hours before her death.
Mr. Jones said that Ms. Armstrong’s Jeep had been seen near the apartment less than an hour before shots were heard. Mrs. Armstrong also owned a gun used in the shooting, Mr. Jones.
The Austin Police Department appointed Ms. Armstrong, now 35, as a suspect and issued a warrant for her arrest six days after Ms. Wilson, 25, was killed. At that time Ms. Armstrong left Texas for New York and would soon fly to Costa Rica, where she evaded authorities for 43 days and tried to establish herself as a yoga teacher, according to the US Marshals Service. Weeks before the trial began, Ms. Armstrong to escape police custody and led detectives on a short chase.
Mrs. Wilson, who lived in San Francisco and grew up in Vermont, was a rising star in the cycling world, particularly in the discipline of dirt biking, 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 25 minutes in April 2022, and had recently decided to leave her job as a demand planner at Specialized Bicycles to focus on cycling full-time.
Mrs. Wilson, also known as Mo, was looking forward to months of intense racing when she traveled to Austin in May 2022 to find the 150-mile Gravel Locos in nearby Hico, Texas, she told VeloNews, a competitive cycling magazine, earlier the same month.
Mr. Jones said that on the day Ms. Wilson was killed, she went on a two-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 when she visited Austin, their relationship was “platonic”. That month, Ms. Wilson’s family also said in a statement that she was “not in a romantic relationship with anyone” at the time of her death.
Mr. Strickland testified at trial that Ms. Armstrong had had access to his financial records, his email and his Instagram account because she managed a business for him, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Mrs. Armstrong’s lawyers said during the trial that the police had designated Ms. Armstrong as the suspect too soon and that someone else could have killed Ms. Wilson. Mrs. Armstrong did not testify.
Rick Cofer, an attorney for Ms. Armstrong, said the case against her was based “on assumptions, confirmation bias and a lack of direct evidence.”
Sir. Cofer said that suggesting that Ms. Armstrong had killed Ms. Wilson, because she was jealous, was an easy story for prosecutors. “Jealousy is a basic human emotion,” he said.
The day after Ms. Wilson was killed, police questioned Ms. Armstrong about the death, after learning she had a Jeep similar to the one seen outside the apartment. She was released.
Mrs. Armstrong then sold his black Jeep Grand Cherokee for $12,200 and flew to New York on May 14, 2022. Three days later, the Austin Police Department issued an arrest warrant. And on May 18, she used a fraudulent passport to fly to San José, Costa Rica, from Newark, NJ, the US Marshals Service said.
Mrs. Armstrong was on the run for 43 days before she was arrested in Costa Rica in June 2022 after changing her appearance and trying to set up a yoga teaching business. She was found at a hostel in Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas on Costa Rica’s west coast, the US Marshals Service said.
Mrs. Armstrong had used several aliases in Costa Rica and had cut her hair and dyed it brown, Brandon Filla, a deputy U.S. marshal, said at a press conference in July 2022. When she was arrested, she also had a bandage on her nose and discoloration under her eyes , which she said was caused by a surfboard accident, Mr Filla said. In the trial, the prosecution said that Ms. Armstrong had undergone plastic surgery in Costa Rica.
Mrs. 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 to escape police custody on October 11.
Kristen Dark, a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said Ms. Armstrong ran from two corrections officers while leaving a medical appointment and made it about a block and a half before being recaptured.