A star cyclist was murdered. Now her love rival Kaitlin Armstrong is on trial

Kaitlin Armstrong, Moriah Wilson and Colin Strickland (Supplied)
Kaitlin Armstrong, Moriah Wilson and Colin Strickland (Supplied)

Nearly a year and a half after Kaitlin Armstrong made international headlines for allegedly killing her romantic rival and then going on the run for 43 days, her murder trial is underway.

The Texas woman found herself at the centre of a love triangle with her boyfriend Colin Strickland and professional cyclist Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson, who was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds at a friend’s house on 11 May 2022.

Ms Armstrong was questioned by police just three days after the killing but once freed, she fled to Costa Rica leading the authorities on an intensive manhunt that ultimately ended in her capture despite her effort to disguise her identity with dyed hair and plastic surgery.

The 35-year-old yoga teacher and realtor was brought back to the United States and charged with first-degree murder. She pleaded not guilty in July 2022 and has been held at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Texas on a $3.5m bond.

On Monday, the jury that will decide her fate was seated with eight women and six men.

Opening statements will begin at 9am on Wednesday in Austin, Texas. A judge ruled that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom for the opening statements, the closing arguments, and the verdict only.

As her trial begins this week in Austin, here’s what we know about the case.

A rising star cyclist’s murder

Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson, 25, a competitive gravel and mountain bike racer from Vermont, was found dead on 11 May in her friend’s Austin, Texas apartment.

A month before her death, Ms Wilson beat 30 of the top gravel racing cyclists in the United States to claim the Fuego 80k at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California.

Ms Wilson followed up that victory with a win at the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego on 30 April 2022 and arrived in Austin on 10 May as the favourite to win the Gravel Locos in Hico, a few days later.

She was staying at her friend Caitlin Cash’s apartment on Maple Avenue, East Austin, and on 11 May arranged to meet fellow pro-cyclist Colin Strickland, who according to a police affidavit she had an on-again, off-again relationship with when he and his then-girlfriend Ms Armstrong were on a hiatus.

Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson was one of the top gravel racing cyclists in the world (Instagram/Mo Wilson)
Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson was one of the top gravel racing cyclists in the world (Instagram/Mo Wilson)

The pair went swimming at the Deep Eddy Pool public aquatic centre in Austin before going for a meal at nearby Pool Burger, Mr Strickland, 35, told investigators. He dropped Ms Wilson off at her friend’s home at around 8.30pm.

One minute later, a neighbour’s surveillance camera captured Ms Armstong’s Cherokee SUV outside the address.

Later that night Ms Wilson was found bleeding and unconscious with multiple gunshot wounds by the friend she was staying with. Despite attempts to resuscitate her, she was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to a police affidavit, Mr Strickland told detectives in a 12 May interview that Ms Armstrong had returned to their home in her SUV around 9.20pm.

Mr Strickland said he struck up a relationship with Ms Wilson in October 2021 when he and Ms Armstrong were on a brief hiatus. Texts between him and Ms Wilson showed that she was under the impression they were still dating.

According to the affidavit, a friend called police on 14 May to say that Ms Armstrong had learned of the “on again, off again” relationship in January.

Another caller, identified by the pseudonym Jane to shield her identity from Ms Armstrong, said she “became furious and was shaking in anger” and stated that she wanted to kill Ms Wilson.

She began calling Ms Wilson and ordering her to stay away from her boyfriend, according to the affidavit.

Colin Strickland has cooperated with the police investigation into Mo Wilson’s homicide (Instagram)
Colin Strickland has cooperated with the police investigation into Mo Wilson’s homicide (Instagram)

In an interview with police, Mr Strickland said around that time he purchased 9mm handguns for himself and Ms Armstrong.

During his police interview, Mr Strickland spoke in glowing terms about Ms Wilson’s prospects as a pro-cyclist, describing her as the best gravel cyclist in the United States, and possibly the world.

He was not nearly as flattering about his girlfriend Ms Armstrong, also a “competitive” cyclist, telling officers he had asked her not to ride with him because she “holds him back”.

Mr Strickland has cooperated with investigators and is not a suspect.

Key suspect Kaitlin Armstrong freed after questioning

Ms Armstrong was briefly taken into custody on a separate warrant before investigators allowed her to leave when they realised the warrant wasn’t valid.

When Austin detectives investigating the murder interviewed their key suspect three days after her death, they found her to be angry and evasive.

Ms Armstrong “turned her head and rolled her eyes in an angry manner” when asked by detective Katy Conner on 14 May about her boyfriend Colin Strickland spending time with Ms Wilson on the day of her murder 72 hours earlier, according to a police affidavit.

Austin police called Ms Armstrong in for questioning after they discovered that the real estate agent and part-time yoga instructor had an open misdemeanour warrant on a theft of services charge.

She was shown video surveillance of her black Jeep Cherokee outside the house where Ms Wilson had been shot dead. Police say she was “still and guarded”, and eventually nodded at the suggestion that “maybe you were upset and just in the area”.

During the interview, detectives learned that the arrest warrant was not valid and they couldn’t hold her.

Authorities would not set eyes on Ms Armstrong again for another 43 days, when she was arrested at Don Jon’s Surf and Yoga Hostel in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, by agents assigned to the seaside resort town’s tourist police division.

Weeks on the run

The day after her 14 May 2022 police interview, Ms Armstrong sold her Jeep Grand Cherokee to a dealership for $12,200 before flying from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Houston Hobby and then taking a connecting Southwest flight to LaGuardia in New York.

An arrest warrant was issued for her on 17 May, and the next day she turned up at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Authorities did not see her boarding an outbound flight.

Brandon Filla, Deputy US Marshal Western District of Texas, told The Independent agents later tracked Ms Armstrong to Costa Rica after learning she had obtained a valid US passport in another person’s name and checking flight records.

They tipped off authorities in the Central American country, who began combing likely tourist hangouts for any sign of the fugitive.

Kaitlin Armstrong faces charges of murder, first degree felony, and theft of service (Travis County Jail)
Kaitlin Armstrong faces charges of murder, first degree felony, and theft of service (Travis County Jail)

They eventually caught up with her at Don Jon’s, a $17-a-night hostel and yoga retreat in the popular surf resort of Santa Teresa,  170 miles (275km) west of the capital San Jose on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Ms Armstrong reportedly gave police an alias, which did not show up when traced the name through the country’s immigration service. She then provided her real surname, which officers matched to her international arrest warrant.

She had cut and dyed her hair in an effort to change her appearance, and had a bandage on her nose.

A staff member at Don Jon’s confirmed to The Independent that Ms Armstrong had been staying there at the time of her arrest.

“She looked much different than her older photos,” a person who claimed to be with Ms Armstrong when she was arrested commented on an online forum.

“She did have a bandage on the nose she told me was a surf accident. I was about to ask how exactly it happened because if a surfboard did that to her nose she should be dead in the water. I think she had surgery done.”

Sources also told Velonews Ms Armstrong had undergone plastic surgery.

Ms Armstrong had been “trying to set up another type of lifestyle” in the town, Mr Filla told The Independent.

She was then deported to the US, where she was charged with first-degree murder and could be liable for the death penalty.

In a statement after her arrest, Ms Wilson’s family said at the time: “We’re relieved to know this phase of uncertainty is now behind us, and we trust that justice will prevail.”

Second escape attempt

On 11 October 2023, Ms Armstrong was scheduled to attend a medical appointment and required transport to a physician.

She was accompanied by a corrections officer to the medical facility, where she received treatment. While she and the officer were leaving the facility, Ms Armstrong began running.

A recording captured the moment Ms Armstrong attempted to escape her corrections officer. In the video, she can be seen running across a yard toward a brown wooden fence. The corrections officer pursues, but slips and falls in the grass.

Ms Armstrong leaps onto the fence as the video cuts out. She ran for about a mile before she was eventually caught and returned to jail by the corrections officers.

“During the foot pursuit, officers advised inmate Armstrong to remove her county-issued black and white striped uniform pants, which revealed she was wearing thermal pants underneath in an effort to disguise her appearance as an inmate,” according to the affidavit.

“Inmate Armstrong was also able to manipulate her left hand from the hand restraints to assist in her attempted escape.”

An arrest affidavit obtained by Court TV this week revealed she appeared to have spent time planning last week’s escape.

Investigators reviewed surveillance video footage of Ms Armstrong’s jail cell and found that she had spent the last several months “running, doing squats, and yoga throughout her dayroom and recreation time.”

It was also determined that Ms Armstrong had complained about a leg injury to get an outside medical appointment, “as well as a medical request restricting the use of leg restraints.”

The exercise and the alleged leg injury were highlighted as evidence that Ms Armstrong planned the escape attempt, according to the affidavit.

Investigators said they also found a metal pen and dental floss inside her cell. A pin had been broken off the pen, and officers said it may have been used to remove her handcuffs.

Ms Armstrong now faces a felony charge for the alleged escape, according to court records. Her hearing for those charges is scheduled for November.

Here’s what we expect at her trial

Ms Armstrong faces a first-degree murder charge in Wilson’s death.

Her trial began this week in Travis County Criminal Court with District Judge Brenda Kennedy presiding. The jury was seated on Monday with eight women and six men selected.

Opening statements will start at 9am on Wednesday in Austin, Texas, which will be broadcast live on Court TV.

The judge ruled that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom for the opening statements, the closing arguments, and the verdict only.