Inside the Murder Case Against Kaitlin Armstrong: A 43-Day Search and an Alleged Love Triangle

·10 min read

Moriah Wilson went to Texas to compete in the Gravel Locos race, her reputation preceding her as an up-and-coming star in the rugged world of professional mountain bike and gravel racing.

Instead, a number of cyclists ended up dedicating their ride to the 25-year-old, who was found fatally shot May 11 at the home where she was staying in Austin, three nights before the event.

"I don't think any of us really wanted to race," Jess Cera, who finished third among the women, told Velo News. "We wanted to do it for her. It was emotional."

Meanwhile, as the tributes were pouring in, the Travis County Medical Examiner had ruled her death a homicide and detectives were trying to piece together the final hours of Wilson's life. Less than a week later, a warrant was out for Kaitlin Armstrong's arrest.

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What happened to Moriah "Mo" Wilson?

Wilson grew up in Vermont and had been an alpine ski racer before devoting herself to cycling, working in demand management at bike and equipment company Specialized after college at Dartmouth to finance her dreams of becoming an elite racer. Which she was doing, having already won 10 events in 2022 before she arrived in Austin for Gravel Locos.

On the afternoon of May 11, she texted her friend Caitlin Cash that she was going swimming with Colin Strickland, 35, a fellow cyclist. According to a May 17 arrest warrant affidavit posted by the Austin American-Statesman, Strickland told detectives they did go for a swim, after which they had dinner and he drove her back on his motorcycle to Cash's place on Maple Avenue. He said he did not go inside, nor did he notice anything amiss, when he dropped her off.

Mo Wilson, cyclist, Instagram
Instagram

Cash got a notification on her phone that the door was unlocked at 8:36 p.m., per the affidavit, using a code she'd given Wilson that she had only recently changed and was unknown to anyone else. Security camera footage from a nearby home, viewed by police, showed a dark-colored SUV pull up next to the residence at 8:37 p.m.

Cash came home to find Wilson lying in a pool of blood and called 911. Per Austin police, officers arrived at 9:56 p.m. and the victim, who had been shot multiple times, was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:10 p.m.

On May 14, police said that the shooting did not appear to be a random act and they had identified a person of interest.

Three days later, the aforementioned arrest warrant alleging murder was issued for Strickland's live-in girlfriend, Armstrong.

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Who is Kaitlin Armstrong?

Before May 11, Armstrong was a yoga instructor and avid, if amateur, cyclist. A week later, the 34-year-old was wanted as an international fugitive.

Cash told the cops that Wilson had gone out with Strickland. When they went to his house to talk to him on May 12, police saw what looked like the SUV from the security footage parked in the driveway. Strickland told them the black 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee belonged to Armstrong and he never drove it, according to the warrant affidavit.

Kaitlin Armstrong, U.S. Marshals Service
U.S. Marshals Service

Police noted in the affidavit that they found two 9mm handguns in Strickland's house during a warranted May 12 search, which he told detectives he'd bought in December and January, a Springfield Armory for himself and a Sig-Sauer for Armstrong.

When investigators told Armstrong later that day that the footage, combined with some of the details they'd just heard from her boyfriend, didn't look good for her, the warrant noted that "she nodded her head up and down as if in agreement."

But Armstrong was free to go. So she went—and didn't stop until she'd reached Costa Rica.

On May 17, per the affidavit, a microscopic comparison of a shell case from ammunition test-fired from Armstrong's Sig-Sauer at the crime lab and shell cases found by Wilson's body determined there was "significant" potential that they came from the same gun. Police subsequently filed for the arrest warrant in Austin Municipal City Court later that day.

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Was there a love triangle between Kaitlin Armstrong, Mo Wilson and Colin Strickland?

Strickland told police that he and Wilson had a fling last fall while he and Armstrong, whom he'd been in a relationship with for several years, were on a roughly two-week break.

Wilson "returned to her home in California and about a month later, Kaitlin Armstrong and I reconciled and resumed our relationship," he said in a statement to police. "Since then I often saw Mo at cycling events, and always in public settings. After our brief relationship in October 2021, we were not in a romantic relationship, only a platonic and professional one."

But Strickland also told investigators, per the arrest affidavit, that he had tried to keep his ongoing communication with Wilson a secret from Armstrong, saving her number in his phone under a different name and deleting their text messages. And he acknowledged lying to Armstrong about where he was when he went out to see Wilson on May 11.

Colin Strickland, Kaitlin Armstrong, Mo Wilson
Instagram; U.S. Marshals Service

Police detailed in the affidavit that Armstrong "was upset" and "rolled her eyes in an angry manner" when confronted with the information that Strickland had secretly met up with Wilson, but she was quoted telling them she "'didn't have any idea he saw or even went out with this girl...as of recently.'"

A friend of Wilson's told police on May 13, per the affidavit, that Strickland and Wilson's romance was actually "on again, off again." The friend said Wilson had told her that Armstrong tried to contact her a few times, the last time telling her that she was with Strickland and Wilson should stay away, after which Wilson blocked her number. Within two months before Wilson was killed, the friend said, Armstrong had started following the cyclist on Instagram.

An anonymous tipster called police on May 14, the affidavit continued, to say they'd seen Armstrong in January when she had just found out Strickland was still involved with Wilson and she "became furious and was shaking in anger."

Mo Wilson, cyclist
Instagram

Also included in the affidavit, Wilson had sent Strickland a text in January wanting to know what was going on, writing, "my mind has been going circles." He replied the next day that he felt bad for putting her "in a position where you don't feel comfortable...In hindsight, this was not a good idea."

Investigators also noted in their affidavit that Strickland "spoke very highly" about Wilson throughout their interview.

"There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime," Strickland told the American-Statesman in a May 20 statement. "I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable situation. It was not my intention to pursue along an auxiliary romantic relationship that would mislead anyone. Moriah and I were both leaders in this lonely, niche sport of cycling, and I admired her greatly and considered her a close friend. I am deeply grieving her loss."

Wilson's family said in a statement that "at the time of her death, those closest to her clearly understood, directly from Moriah, that she was not in a romantic relationship with anyone."

How did authorities find Kaitlin Armstrong?

After a 43-day search, Kaitlin was arrested June 29 by local authorities at Don Jon's Surf and Yoga Lodge, located on Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

"It looks like she retreated back to her hobby, her career of being in the yoga practice," Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla said at a July 7 press conference. "We believe she was trying to learn new yoga, possibly to instruct."

Kaitlin Armstrong, mugshot
Austin Police Department

Detailing their road to finding Armstrong, officials explained that, first, a confidential source informed authorities that the suspect had left the state, after which the U.S. Marshals-led Lone Star Fugitive task force was on the case.

According to the June 30 release from the U.S. Marshals Office announcing Armstrong was in custody, task force members learned that she had sold her Jeep to a CarMax in Austin for $12,200 on May 13, the day after she was questioned by police. Then, on May 14, authorities said, she flew from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Houston, then on to New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Investigators said an interviewed source relayed that Armstrong was provided transportation to New Jersey's Newark International Airport on May 18, but there were no tickets in her name on any outgoing flights. A federal arrest warrant was issued for an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution on May 25, and the search was upgraded to major case status.

Kaitlin Armstrong, mugshot
Austin Police Department

Homeland Security Investigations eventually discovered Armstrong had flown from Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica, on May 18 using a fraudulent passport, according to the U.S. Marshals' June 30 release. Filla said July 7 that the passport belonged to someone Armstrong was closely associated with.

U.S. and Costa Rican authorities remained in touch as she passed through several cities, visiting a yoga studio at one point, Filla continued. Armstrong used aliases, and cut and dyed her hair to avoid detection, he said, and they were investigating a report from a Costa Rican news outlet that alleged she had plastic surgery while she was there as well.

Armstrong was transported back to Texas on July 2 and jailed on a $3.5 million bond. Her booking photo showed her once-blonde hair was dyed dark brown.

"When it was communicated that she was detained and she was in custody," Filla said, "there was a lot of relief in this office."

Wilson's family, who had remained very quiet during the investigation, said in a statement, "We're relieved to know this phase of uncertainty is now behind us and we trust that justice will prevail."

Where is Kaitlin Armstrong now?

At her arraignment July 20, Armstrong pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. She remains in custody in Travis County jail. The charge of fleeing to avoid prosecution has been dismissed.

"There's a big picture here. This is the beginning of a process that will play out in court," her attorney Rick Cofer told reporters after the hearing, "and it should play out in court. And we understand that there are questions that need to be answered, and we look forward to doing so. But we also have some questions of our own."

Calling the day's proceedings "illuminating," he said, "Miss Armstrong wants her day in court."

Rick Cofer, Kaitlin Armstrong attorney, presser screengrab
Rick Cofer, Kaitlin Armstrong attorney, presser screengrab

In fact, the defense filed a motion for a speedy trial. All parties are scheduled to reconvene in court Oct. 19, with a trial expected to start as soon as the following week.

A prosecutor expressed surprise at the haste, telling Fox 7, "I don't know what kind of privilege this particular defendant has to cut in front all of these people who have been waiting for trial." Moreover, he added, "I know [the defense] haven't seen all the evidence because we don't have all the evidence to give to them."

Noting that the defense was filing motions challenging the investigation's findings, Cofer told reporters, "All I can ask of the press here is that you not consider everything told to you by law enforcement as confirmed and reportable facts. Simply put, there is a lot more to this story than has yet been heard."

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