(AUSTIN, Texas) — A jury found Texas yoga instructor Kaitlin Armstrong guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of romantic rival Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson.
The jury deliberated for under three hours on Thursday before reaching the guilty verdict.
The Wilson family and friends embraced each other as they cried in a huddle following the verdict, while Armstrong’s family appeared to be in a state of shock. The defendant’s mother sat stoically while her father and sister both left the courtroom, the latter visibly weeping.
Wilson, 25, was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at a friend’s home in Austin on the night of May 11, 2022. The cycling prodigy was once romantically linked to Armstrong’s then-boyfriend, Colin Strickland, a fellow professional cyclist, and was found shot hours after meeting up with him, police said.
Armstrong, 35, was arrested in June 2022 at a hostel in Costa Rica following a 43-day search and has been detained since then on a $3.5 million bond. She had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Wilson’s death.
The sentencing phase is currently underway in the Austin courtroom, with the court hearing statements from witnesses, including Wilson’s mother, father and brother.
Wilson’s mother, Karen Wilson, said her daughter was destined to “live and move and shine and listen and laugh and be such a unique person.”
Asked by prosecutors about the moment she found out about her daughter’s death, she responded between sobs, “It was the worst moment of my life. My whole life has never been the same since. Everything is upside down. I will never be the same.”
Her father, Eric Wilson, likened it to living through a bad nightmare — “but this is not a nightmare, it’s reality.”
“I think about it every night. If I do sleep, when I wake up, it’s the first thought on my mind. I live with it every day,” he said.
Her brother, Matthew Wilson, said his sister was his “closest confidant.”
“My sister had her life taken from her for no reason at all,” he said. “She’ll never ride a bike again, she’ll never take a 20-minute break from work to bake banana bread in her kitchen, she’ll never get married, she’ll never buy a home, she’ll never have kids, she’ll never meet someone that she loves and … my parents will never be able to see that happen, to see her enjoy her life.”
Caitlin Cash, who found Wilson bleeding on the floor of her home, described to the court the guilt, PTSD, panic attacks and paranoia she has experienced since.
The defense will also present witnesses including Armstrong’s father and sister prior to the sentencing.
After calling nearly 40 witnesses over the two-week trial, Travis County prosecutor Rick Jones told the jurors during closing statements on Thursday that there was “overwhelming” evidence that points to Armstrong pulling the trigger.
Prosecutors presented evidence that they say showed Armstrong’s 2012 Jeep Cherokee circling the residence’s block the night of the homicide, that her firearm was used in the homicide and her DNA was likely found on Wilson’s bicycle.
“Only Kaitlin Armstrong, the defendant, fits these facts that [were] presented to you through that witness chair,” Jones said.
Prosecutors also replayed audio on Thursday of the moments Wilson was fatally shot — twice in the head and once in the heart “for good measure,” Jones said. They also showed the jurors footage they said showed Armstrong attempting to flee from deputies in the weeks leading up to the trial while being transported to an off-site medical appointment.
“She’s not just running from the sheriff’s department,” Jones told jurors. “She’s running from you and you and you and you and you and you and you.”
Jones implored the jurors not to go down the defense’s “rabbit holes.”
In their closing statements, the defense said Armstrong was “trapped in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.”
“There is a lot of sizzle, but there’s not much steak,” defense attorney Rick Cofer said. “This is a case based on assumptions; it’s based on confirmation bias and a lack of direct evidence.”
Cofer said police narrowed in on Armstrong to fit an easy narrative of a “spurned, jealous lover” and didn’t investigate other potential suspects in the case.
“She had to be portrayed as a jealous psycho to create the motive,” Cofer said while refuting the prosecutors’ characterization of her as being a jealous girlfriend.
Defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear also refuted the state’s DNA and ballistics evidence and told jurors Armstrong was free to leave when she flew to Costa Rica days after being interviewed by police about Wilson’s death.
In wrapping up their closing, prosecutors asked why Armstrong used a false name and passport to fly to Costa Rica and sought plastic surgery once there.
“These are all indications of guilt, ladies and gentlemen,” state attorney Guillermo Gonzalez told the jurors. “This isn’t somebody on a frolic. This is somebody who’s a fugitive and desperately trying to get away.”
Armstrong declined to testify during the trial.
Strickland took to the stand and testified about his and Armstrong’s on-again, off-again “tumultuous” relationship.
ABC News’ Olivia Osteen, Meghan Mariani, Keturah Gray and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.
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