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Fugitive suspect Kaitlin Armstrong still on the run six weeks after shooting love rival

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 26 Jun 2022, 12:55pm
Police find key piece of evidence in alleged murder they believe was motivated by romantic jealousy. Photos / US Marshals, Instagram
Police find key piece of evidence in alleged murder they believe was motivated by romantic jealousy. Photos / US Marshals, Instagram

Fugitive suspect Kaitlin Armstrong still on the run six weeks after shooting love rival

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 26 Jun 2022, 12:55pm

Police in the United States have found a key piece of evidence in an alleged murder they believe was motivated by romantic jealousy. 

Authorities in the United States are still searching for a woman who's wanted over the murder of a professional cyclist, more than six weeks after the crime. 

Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, is suspected of killing Anna Moriah Wilson, 25, in Austin, Texas on May 11. 

Police allege the murder was motivated by romantic jealousy. Both women had dated Armstrong's boyfriend, 35-year-old cyclist Colin Strickland. 

Armstrong, a yoga instructor, was briefly in police custody the day after the crime but had to be released due to an invalid arrest warrant. Then she vanished. 

Anna Moriah Wilson, who went by her middle name, 'Mo'. Photo / Instagram 

This week, police finally discovered the whereabouts of a key piece of evidence – merely the latest twist in a case that has been full of them. 

Timeline of the murder 

A San Francisco resident, Wilson was staying at the apartment of a friend, Caitlin Cash, in Austin when she was killed. The cyclist had travelled from California to Texas to compete in the Gravel Locos race. 

Wilson was a rising star in the world of cycling. Photo / Instagram 

On the day of her death, May 11, she met up with Strickland, who lived in Austin, and who she'd remained friends with after they stopped officially dating months earlier. 

The pair went swimming together at a public aquatic centre, then ate at a nearby restaurant, Pool Burger. Strickland told police he dropped Wilson back at her friend's apartment around 8.30pm. 

But at 9.56pm, Cash called 911, reporting that on returning home she had discovered Wilson unconscious and bleeding. 

The responding police officers arrived minutes later to find Cash performing CPR on her friend. They observed that Wilson had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and there were fired cartridge cases on the floor near her. 

At 10.10pm, Wilson was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Cash told police she had arrived home to discover her front door was unlocked. When she went inside, approximately two minutes before calling 911, she found Wilson lying on the bathroom floor covered in blood. 

She said Wilson's bicycle appeared to have been stolen. Officers found it "concealed in thick bamboo" about 20m from the residence. 

"Moriah was a talented, kind and caring young woman," Wilson's family said in a statement after her death. 

"Her life was taken from her before she had the opportunity to achieve everything she dreamt of. Our family, and all those who loved her, will forever miss her." 

Trail of clues 

Homicide Detective Richard Spitler interviewed Cash, who revealed she had an electronic lock on her front door. It is unlocked by entering a code. 

Whenever the code is used, Cash receives a notification on her phone. On the evening of the murder, she received such a notification at 8.36pm, indicating that is when Wilson returned to the apartment. 

According to an affidavit from Spitler, police noticed a surveillance camera mounted on the exterior of a home near the crime scene. The camera faced a driveway next to Cash's apartment. 

The owners of the camera allowed police to view its footage, which showed "a dark-coloured SUV" driving past the apartment at 8.37pm – one minute after Wilson entered. 

The vehicle had a bike rack on its trailer hitch, a luggage rack mounted on its roof, and chrome around its windows. 

The SUV "slowed down, appearing to come to a stop, directly next to Cash's residence". It was the only vehicle that could be seen passing by in the footage until the emergency vehicles arrived more than an hour later. 

Investigators learned from Cash that Wilson had met Strickland before the murder. On May 12, they visited his home. Spitler observed three vehicles in the driveway, one of which – a Jeep Grand Cherokee – appeared to match the SUV in the footage. A motorcycle and a Mercedes were also among the vehicles. 

When interviewed, Strickland revealed that he lived with his girlfriend, Armstrong. They had been dating for about three years but broke up for "one to two weeks" in October 2021. During that break-up period, he had a brief relationship with Wilson. 

Colin Strickland. Photo / Instagram 

He said he had continued to speak to Wilson afterwards and had tried to hide that fact from Armstrong. 

"Strickland advised that while he and Wilson were dating, Armstrong called Wilson on the phone, telling Wilson she was the one who was dating Strickland," the affidavit states. 

"Strickland told Det Spitler he has had to change Wilson's name in his phone so Armstrong does not know who he is speaking to. He admitted he had to change Wilson's name because Armstrong had blocked Wilson's number on his phone. Strickland also advised he has had to delete text messages on his phone to prevent Armstrong from finding them." 

Strickland said he had picked Wilson up and dropped her back to the apartment on his motorcycle. After leaving her, he sent a text message to Armstrong. 

"Hey! Are you out? I went to drop some flowers for Alison at her son's house up north and my phone died. Heading home unless you have another food suggestion," he wrote. 

"Strickland had lied about his whereabouts to Armstrong to hide [the fact that] he was with Wilson throughout the evening," the affidavit notes. 

Strickland said he arrived home at about 8.43pm, and Armstrong arrived at about 9.30pm – driving the Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

He told Spitler that of the three vehicles observed in the driveway, he owned the motorcycle and the Mercedes. 

He said Armstrong owned the Jeep, and was the only person who ever drove it. 

He also revealed he had bought two guns between December and January, one for himself and the other for Armstrong. The firearm he purchased for her was a Sig-Sauer handgun. 

Kaitlin Armstrong. Photo / US Marshals 

Armstrong confronted 

While Strickland was being interviewed at a police station, officers executed a search of the home he shared with Armstrong. They found the two guns. 

They also discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for Armstrong's arrest on an unrelated matter. Police took her into custody and interviewed her. 

Confronted with the video footage of her vehicle near the crime scene, "she had no explanation as to why it was in the area", the affidavit states. 

The interviewer, Detective Katy Conner, then "confronted her on how Strickland went out with Wilson and [the allegation] that Armstrong was upset about that". 

"Armstrong then turned her head and rolled her eyes in an angry manner. She then stated, 'I … I'm [not] certain as to even what you mean or what [Strickland] said because I didn't have any idea that he saw or even went out with this girl … as of recently.'" 

But during the conversation, Conner was informed that the arrest warrant police had used "was not valid", meaning Armstrong was free to leave at any time. Conner advised her of that fact. 

Kaitlin Armstrong. According to Strickland, she did cycle competitively, but unlike he and Wilson, she was not a professional racer. Photo / US Marshals 

After again offering no explanation for why her vehicle was in the vicinity of the crime scene, Armstrong requested permission to leave and was allowed to go. 

The next day, Spitler spoke to a friend of Wilson, identified only by the pseudonym Jane in the court document. This woman spoke on the condition that she remain anonymous "to prevent being targeted by Armstrong". 

According to Jane, Strickland and Wilson's romantic relationship had been "on-again, off-again". That contradicted the way Strickland had characterised it. 

After reviewing texts on Wilson's phone, investigators would conclude that "Wilson appeared to be under the impression she was still in a romantic relationship with Strickland even though he was currently dating Armstrong". 

Wilson (second from the left) with friends. Photo / Instagram 

Jane said Armstrong had discovered Wilson's phone number at one point and contacted her "several times", causing Wilson to block Armstrong's number. About two months before Wilson's death, Armstrong started to follow her on Instagram. 

"Jane advised that the last time Armstrong called Wilson, she told Wilson she was with Strickland and Wilson needed to stay away from him," says the affidavit. 

On May 14, an anonymous caller contacted the Austin Police Department. This individual refused to be identified but told police she was with Armstrong in January. 

"The caller advised Armstrong had just discovered Strickland was having a romantic relationship with Wilson even though Armstrong and Strickland were still dating. The caller advised Armstrong became furious and was shaking in anger," the court document recounts. 

"Armstrong told the caller she was so angry [that] she wanted to kill Wilson. Armstrong then proceeded to tell the caller she had either recently purchased a firearm or was going to." 

The police considered this anonymous caller credible because the alleged conversation happened at about the same time that Strickland purchased the two firearms. 

On May 17, the Sig-Sauer gun recovered from Strickland's residence was test-fired. 

Police say this image shows Ms Armstrong at the airport in Austin. Photo / US Marshals 

Analysis of the test cartridge case was compared microscopically to those found next to Wilson's body. 

"The potential that the same firearm was involved is significant," the analysis found. 

On the run 

On May 13, the day after her police interview, Armstrong sold her SUV to a CarMax dealership in the southern part of Austin. (The fate of the vehicle was not discovered until Thursday this week.) 

The next afternoon, on May 14, Armstrong was seen at Austin International Bergstrom Airport. From there she flew to Houston Hobby Airport, then to LaGuardia Airport in New York. 

On May 17, police obtained a warrant for her arrest. 

According to investigators, she was then dropped at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18. However, her name was not linked to any of the outbound flights. 

On May 24, Armstrong's father Michael gave an interview to Good Morning America. He was adamant that she couldn't have committed the murder. 

"I know that she did not do this. There are a lot of unanswered questions," he said. 

"I know her. I know how she thinks and I know what she believes. And I know that she just would not do something like this. 

"We love you Katie, and we are going to figure this out." 

Finally, on May 25, Armstrong was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. There is currently a reward of US$21,000 ($33,000) on offer for information leading to her arrest. 

Mo Wilson. Photo / Instagram 

'Platonic and professional' 

Strickland has spoken publicly multiple times, insisting his friendship with Wilson was platonic following their brief relationship in late 2021. 

"I am reeling from grieving Mo's death and from the facts that have emerged during the investigation. I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by Mo's family and her close friends," he said in the statement released on May 21. 

"There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime. I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy. 

"Although it will be a matter of small consolation to anyone else who cared for Mo, I want you to know that I have fully co-operated with investigators since I learned the terrible news, and I will continue to do so until some form of justice is served. 

"As a point of clarification to facts previously reported, Moriah Wilson and I had a brief romantic relationship from late October to early November 2021 that spanned a week or so while she was visiting Austin. At the time, she and I had both recently ended relationships. 

"She returned to her home in California and about a month later, Kaitlin Armstrong and I reconciled and resumed our relationship." 

After that, Strickland said, he saw Wilson "often" at cycling events, "always in public settings", and they shared a platonic friendship. 

"After our brief relationship in October, we were not in a romantic relationship, only a platonic and professional one. It was not my intention to pursue along an auxilliary romantic relationship that would mislead anyone," he said. 

"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." 

In a subsequent interview with The Sun this month, Strickland said the case had been "skewed" by the media to seem more "salacious" than it actually was. 

"Moriah and I had seen each other at no less than four events in 2022, and we had a completely platonic relationship and friendship," he said. 

"It's unfortunate how that has been skewed out to be a salacious aspect to this story, when it really wasn't the case. It's just unfortunate for her memory that it's been skewed that way. 

"Mo was an intelligent person and she was not under the impression that we were in a romantic relationship. If we were, we would have been romantic at these bicycle races that we were seeing each other at, we would have found private space, and that was not happening in any way." 

Strickland said it was "pretty obvious" that Armstrong should surrender to law enforcement, but he wouldn't be drawn to speculate on her whereabouts. 

"I'm not really thinking about Kaitlin. That's outside my realm of control," he said. 

"I'm not following the ****ing news, it's not in my realm of control. There's nothing I can do except drive myself crazy. That's really it." 

He said he'd noticed "no indication" that Armstrong was capable of violence and she was "one of the least volatile people I have ever met". 

The search for her continues. 

- by Sam Clench, news.com.au