Kaitlin Armstrong, the woman who spent six weeks on the run after being accused of killing leading US gravel racer Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
34-year-old Armstrong was arrested at the end of June in the Costa Rica beach resort of Santa Teresa, where she had fled over six weeks before using a fraudulent passport, after being charged with Wilson’s murder.
US Marshals, who captured the yoga teacher with the help of Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, and local authorities, believed that Armstrong was planning on establishing a new life in the Central American country.
Witnesses at the hostel where Armstrong was arrested said that she had cut and dyed her hair and undergone plastic surgery in a bid to avoid detection.
However, CBS Austin reported yesterday that Armstrong has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and that her attorneys told a hearing in Austin, Texas, that she wished to exercise her right to a speedy trial.
While Armstrong’s legal team indicated that they were willing to go before a jury as early as September, prosecutors indicated that they would not be ready that soon, with the judge eventually ruling that the trial will begin on 24 October.
Outside the court, Armstrong’s attorney Rick Cofer told reporters that his client was innocent and that a number of missteps had been made by investigators.
Vermont native Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson, aged 25, was found fatally wounded on the evening of 11 May with multiple gunshot wounds at an apartment in Austin, Texas, where she had been staying with a friend ahead of taking part in the Gravel Locos race, which she had been favourite to win.
Earlier that day, she had gone swimming with Armstrong’s partner, fellow gravel racer Colin Strickland, and the pair had a meal together before he dropped Wilson off at her friend’s apartment.
She and Strickland had dated briefly last year when he and Armstrong had a short separation, although he has firmly denied that he and Wilson had rekindled their relationship at the time of her murder.
Armstrong was interviewed by detectives in Austin after Wilson’s murder, but released on a technicality.
On 14 May Armstrong, using aliases and fake passports, then took a flight to Houston before catching a connection to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. Four days later, as police issued a warrant for her arrest, Armstrong flew from Newark International Airport, New Jersey, to Costa Rica, where she spent the following six weeks prior to her arrest.
The murder of Wilson, a popular 25-year-old gravel and mountain bike rider from Vermont, has rocked US cycling. Wilson had recently left her job at Specialized to focus on her racing career.
After finishing second at the Leadville 100 MTB race and winning the Big Sugar Gravel in 2021, she progressed rapidly this year, putting together a string of impressive victories at Lake Sonoma MTB, Huffmaster Hopper, the Sea Otter Classic Fuego MTB 80K, and the Belgian Waffle Ride, taken just a week before her death.
In the wake of his sister’s tragic death, Wilson’s brother Matt has collaborated with family, friends and the wider cycling community in the US to establish the Moriah Wilson Foundation.
Matt hopes that the new organisation will honour his sister’s legacy by helping to open access to sports, recreation, and educational programmes for groups of people that may otherwise be overlooked.
“One of the ways she was going to be able to deal with [her growing status as an athlete] and be more comfortable with it was to use it in a way that wasn’t all about her,” he said. “To use it in a way to impact community, cycling, sports, youth, and giving back.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.