On October 30, 2023 the jury trial of Kaitlin Armstrong, who is accused of shooting and killing professional gravel racer Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson began. It’s been more than a year since Armstrong was captured in Costa Rica and extradited back to the U.S. after a month-long manhunt, and the trial has been delayed several times already.
Armstrong faces 99 years in prison if convicted, plus another 20 years for her escape attempt last month.
Here, we’ll be keeping you updated as the trial proceeds.
November 16, 2023
You can watch the closing arguments live here on Court TV.
November 15, 2023
This morning at 9:30 am., the State rested its case against Kaitlin Armstrong, and the defense began calling witnesses according to KVUE.
The defense first called Erin LaGrone, the senior latent print examiner with the Austin Forensic Science Department, who testified that 31 prints were collected in the area where Wilson was murdered. Armstrong’s prints were the only ones that Detective Spitler requested the prints be compared to. None of the prints conclusively matched Armstrong.
The officer who first picked up Armstrong on May 12, 2022, based on the outstanding warrant for her arrest due to nonpayment of a Botox procedure, APD Officer Gordon Niels was also called to testify by the defense. He said Armstrong was calm when she was arrested and that her appearance hadn’t changed drastically since then.
Forensic metallurgist Bill Tobin was called to testify, but appeared via Zoom. According to one reporter, the jurors weren’t overly impressed with his testimony regarding ballistics and the efficacy of ballistics testing:
Questioning is going pretty slowly because Tobin is having difficulty hearing the court on Zoom. It also seems some of the jury is losing interest. Some of them are leaning back and putting their head down.
— Melia Masumoto (@MeliaMasumoto) November 15, 2023
Melia Masumoto, the reporter on site, also noted, “All this to say, Tobin believes firearms and toolmarks identification is a valid investigative tool, but it shouldn’t be used to prove guilt or innocence.”
Tobin also acknowledged that he had not reviewed the evidence in this case, specifically, and the prosecution noted he had been paid $5000 to testify for the defense.
The defense called Colin Strickland back as their final witness and questioned him regarding his whereabouts at the time of Wilson's murder. Strickland reiterated that he was home, and testified that Armstrong came home in her Jeep alone.
Armstrong declined to testify in her own defense in front of the judge (but wiht the jury out of the room), according to Fox News.
Closing arguments will begin on Thursday.
November 14, 2023
At the start of the testimonies on Tuesday, firearms forensics examiner Steven Aston was cross-examined by the defense, who questioned the 'exact science' of ballistics testing, according to The Independent.
The doctor who performed the autopsy, Dr. Bernadette Derussy, also testified that Wilson was shot three times, twice in the head and once in the heart. According to KXAN, Wilson also had a wound on her index finger that may have been sustained trying to protect herself.
Armstrong's attempt to escape earlier in October was also brought up during today's events. Officer Rosalda Johnson, one of the officers who was with Armstrong when she made her escape, testified. As they were leaving Armstrong's doctor appointment, Johnson was turned around to deal with paperwork when “My partner says, ‘she’s escaping,'” Johnson told the court.
The chase lasted 10 minutes before Johnson apprehended Armstrong. The trial for the escape itself is still forthcoming, but the attempt was ruled admissible as evidence.
DNA specialists Alejandra Gil and Samantha Perkins also testified that Armstrong's DNA was found on Wilson's bike as well as on Armstrong's gun.
November 13, 2023
On Monday, the trial resumed with Detective Daniel Portnoy testifying regarding information he found on Armstrong, Strickland and Wilson's phones. According to The Independent, Wilson was using her phone prior to her death. Portnoy also shared that there was a cached photo of Wilson on Armstrong's phone, though it may have been saved automatically rather than intentionally.
The Austin American Statesman also reported that Armstrong's phone was turned off in the hours around Wilson's death.
Firearms forensics examiner Steven Aston also testified that he believes the bullets that killed Wilson were shot from Armstrong's gun, according to KXAN. Others testified that Armstrong had practiced at a shooting range with said gun.
November 8, 2023
KXAN shared that two of Armstrong's friends testified on Wednesday that she told them she 'wanted to kill Mo' when she learned of Wilson and Strickland's brief relationship. The friends testified that they “didn’t think much of it at the time because it’s a phrase people commonly use when emotions are high.” The friends did phone the police with this information following Wilson's death.
KXAN also reported that the prosecution's potential witness list spans 10 pages.
According to the Austin American Statesmen, one of the friends—Nicole Mertz—described an interaction she had with Armstrong when they were at the Meteor, a popular cycling cafe in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2021 when Wilson walked in. Armstrong became 'visibly angry,' recalled Mertz.
“I had never seen her like that before, which is why I remember,” Mertz said. “I asked Kaitlin [Armstrong] if Colin [Strickland] ever started dating anyone else seriously what would she do, and she said, ‘I would kill her.’”
The second friend also recalled similar conversations, as well as a discussion of Armstrong wanting to get a gun—which she eventually did.
More evidence was introduced by Detective Spitler that introduced information from the GPS in Armstrong's Jeep (that she sold days after the murder) showed that the Jeep was in the area where Wilson was staying the night she was murdered. Evidence from Armstrong's iCloud account also showed a deleted Google map of where Wilson was staying in East Austin on Maple Avenue.
According to The Independent, Austin Police Department Detective Richard Spitler was testifying today. He explained that a note was found on Armstrong's iCloud account that she had deleted a day after Wilson's murder. The note reportedly contained an address near the site of the crime scene.
The prosecution also showed evidence that Armstrong did in fact use her sister's passport when she flew to Costa Rica days after the murder. More digital evidence included Armstrong's internet searches in Costa Rica, which included her own name, if pineapple could burn off fingerprints, and rhinoplasty (she reportedly had plastic surgery in Costa Rica to alter her appearance).
During a cross-examination of Spitler, the defense brought up the fact that the detective did not go through Strickland's laptop, nor did they analyze a rape kit performed on Wilson (Spitler noted there was no sign of sexual assault).
The defense made an abrupt call for a mistrial—based on the fact that the defense had never been given a police report regarding apparent 'vandalism' of Strickland's motorcycle being pushed over into Armstrong's Jeep and some pavers being moved that had occurred at Strickland and Armstrong's home the day after the murder, according to the Austin American Statesman—but was immediately overruled by the judge.
November 7, 2023
No court today.
November 6, 2023
According to NewsNation reporter Alex Capriello, Colin Strickland reportedly has been battling with press during the trial. Capriello tweeted, "When leaving the courthouse after his testimony today, key witness Colin Strickland goes out of his way to step on a photographer's foot. You can hear the photographer wail in pain. The photographer tells me he has pressed charges. This is his second negative interaction with Strickland today - earlier Colin tried to knock down his camera during lunch recess. Several other photographers filed supplemental witness statements."
WATCH: When leaving the courthouse after his testimony today, key witness Colin Strickland goes out of his way to step on a photographer's foot. You can hear the photographer wail in pain.
The photographer tells me he has pressed charges. This is his second negative interaction… pic.twitter.com/7N3Pw3NBU5
— Alex Caprariello (@alcaprari23) November 6, 2023
November 6, 2023
Colin Strickland took to the stand again on Monday, testifying that at the advice of a defense attorney, he cut ties with Armstrong on May 13, 2022, the day before she fled to Costa Rica, according to The Independent. He also testified that he “didn't know Armstrong very well” despite their long relationship history.
The defense is arguing that the DNA from Armstrong found on Wilson’s bike may have rubbed off from Strickland’s jacket or helmet when Wilson rode on his motorcycle with him earlier that evening.
Much of Monday’s examinations by the defense and prosecution centered around texts sent between Wilson and Strickland, and how many he actually received—Armstrong reportedly blocked Wilson's number on Strickland's phone at one point, according to KXAN’s trial coverage.
November 3, 2023
Colin Strickland took the stand in court on Friday to testify about his relationship with Armstrong as well as Wilson, according to KVUE.com. Footage was introduced from his initial interactions with police, where he explained he had dropped Wilson off at the apartment she was staying that evening, and that she didn't seem worried or upset about anything.
On the stand, he explained that he and Armstrong had a very “on/off” relationship. He added that while she rode bikes, she wasn't 'skilled enough' to keep up with him on rides. He said, “She was perturbed that I went on that ride with other female cyclists.”
He added that in 2021, Armstrong had contacted Wilson when she learned of Strickland and her brief relationship and Wilson told Strickland about the contact, saying it was "strange and unnerving."
He explained that because of that and the tumultuous nature of their relationship, he had Wilson in his phone under another (female) name, and did not tell Armstrong he was meeting Wilson the night of her murder. He noted that Armstrong 'definitely' had access to his Apple account, and would therefore be able to see his messages.
Strickland also noted that the day after police showed up at his doorstep, Armstrong left the house while he was out running errands, and never returned.
ABC News noted that the prosecution has now said that they have video, cellphone, ballistic and DNA evidence that proves Armstrong's guilt. The Independent reported that the DNA linked to Armstrong was found on Wilson's bike, abandoned near the apartment in bamboo bushes.
November 2, 2023
The prosecution played the video from nearby surveillance cameras that captured Wilson’s screams and the gunshots being fired. It was also revealed that Wilson was shot three times: Twice in the head, and once in the chest.
According to KXAN, the defense's primary argument is the lack of footage of Armstrong, only her vehicle and the sound of gunshots.
“I want to talk to you about what you didn’t hear about,” defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear said according to KXAN after the video was played. “Not one witness saw Kaitlin Armstrong allegedly commit this murder because there isn’t one.”
The prosecution called two witnesses on Thursday, including Wilson’s brother, who testified that Wilson and Colin Strickland (Armstrong’s boyfriend) casually dated briefly the year before Wilson’s death.
Caitlin Cash, the friend who's apartment Wilson was staying in and was killed in, was the second witness called by the prosecution. She also testified that the bike found near the house that night was Wilson’s, and forensic investigators noted that they had swapped it for DNA.
According to KXAN, Armstrong was seen taking notes during this line of questioning.
A few of the first responders who came following the 911 call from Cash were also called to testify.
Three separate security cameras recorded a black Jeep leaving the area at the time of the murder, and those homeowners were also called to testify.
There is a gag order on the case, which means that our information is based solely on court reports from outlets who are at the trial.
November 1, 2023
Opening statements from both sides were presented this morning.
“The last thing Mo [Wilson] did on this earth was scream in terror,” Travis County prosecutor Rickey Jones said, according to CourtTV. He added that the screams were captured by surveillance cameras nearby, and will be played during the trial.
Information that hasn't been made public prior to the trial included the prosecution saying that Armstrong tracked Wilson in the days prior to her murder both by checking boyfriend Colin Strickland's phone and by following Wilson on an app because “Wilson had not turned on a safety feature on a phone app” (later revealed to be Strava).
The defense’s opening statement was brief, with defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear telling jurors that Armstrong was caught in a “web of circumstantial evidence.” As for her flight to Costa Rica before she was eventually caught, “She would have no reason to know about any (arrest) warrant, you will hear Kaitlin is passionate about traveling and passionate about yoga,” Puryear said, according to Court TV.
October 31, 2023
Fox 7 reported that Judge Brenda Kennedy will allow Armstrong's escape attempt to be brought up during trial, and told jurors that she anticipates the trial lasting a couple of weeks. The prosecution team includes Guillermo Gonzalez, Ricky Jones, and Jean Sullivan, according to CBS Austin. Armstrong is represented by Geoffrey Puryear, Rick Cofer, and Elizabeth Duggan.
October 30, 2023
The jury selection for Armstrong's trial began as scheduled today. There will be no live TV coverage: Court TV will only be recording opening statements, closing arguments, and the verdict.
According to Fox 7, Judge Brenda Kennedy told potential jurors, “You need to be able to leave any preconceived notions outside the courtroom.” Many were dismissed due to preformed opinions about the case.
By the end of the day, a jury of eight women and six men had been selected. Opening statements will begin on Wednesday.
Get Caught Up
After her return to the U.S., Armstrong was charged with murder in the first degree, to which she pleaded not guilty in July. Last October during Armstrong’s first pre-trial hearing, the defense team worked to discredit evidence gathered when she was questioned immediately after Wilson’s death in May. The trial was originally set for October 2022, then pushed to June 2023, and finally, to October 2023. Since her arrest, Armstrong has remained in police custody with a bail bond set at $3.5 million.
Will Armstrong’s escape attempt earlier this month come up during the trial? Former Travis County Prosecutor Alan Bennet told KXAN that it’s “ultimately up to a judge to decide whether the escape attempt is admissible in court.” KXAN also reported that the state filed a request for records related to her jail, disciplinary, mental health and medical history dating back to mid-September.
Court TV reported last week that separate charges related to the escape—specifically, escape causing bodily injury—will be addressed in another hearing in November.
It appears Armstrong’s escape attempt was pre-planned
More details have emerged regarding her escape attempt, and it’s become more clear that the escape was pre-planned rather than a spur-of-the-moment attempt. According to Court TV, Armstrong was wearing thermal tights under her striped prison garb, and planned to try to disguise herself after fleeing. Footage from the jail also showed her “running, doing squats, and yoga throughout her dayroom and recreation time,” suggesting she was preparing to flee, and in her cell, officers found a metal pen with the pin broken off, which may have been how she was able to remove her handcuffs.
Her legs were unrestrained during the doctor visit she was at prior to her escape attempt, due to the nature of the visit: a leg injury she had complained about. Court TV noted that Armstrong had put in a “medical request restricting the use of leg restraints.”
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