AUSTIN, Texas — The murder trial of a woman accused of shooting rising pro cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson and fleeing the country began Wednesday after Texas prosecutors told jurors they would hear Wilson’s final screams and the shots that killed her.
Caitlin Armstrong, 35, pleaded not guilty to murder and faces up to 99 years in prison in the May 2022 killing of Wilson, a competitive gravel and mountain bike racer. Wilson was shot in the head and chest when he was found at a friend’s house before a race he was among the favorites to win.
“The last thing Moe did in this world was scream terror,” Travis County Prosecutor Ricky Jones told jurors in opening statements.
Nearby surveillance equipment picked up the screams, he said.
“After that shout of ‘Pop! Pop!'” Jones said, putting his hands together for emphasis. “You’ll hear no more screams after this.”
Seconds after those shots, Jones said, “Kaitlyn Armstrong stood over Moe Wilson and put a third shot into Moe Wilson’s heart.”
In a brief opening statement, defense attorney Geoffrey Puryear said Armstrong was caught in a “web of circumstantial evidence.”
No video evidence or witnesses could place Armstrong at the scene of the shooting, Puryear said.
Police said Wilson, a 25-year-old Vermont resident, had previously dated Armstrong’s boyfriend, Colin Strickland, also a competitive gravel racer, and had gone swimming with him earlier in the day. The trial began three weeks after Armstrong attempted to escape from custody.
Prosecutors said they will show that Armstrong tracked Strickland’s communications with Wilson — as well as Wilson’s location — in the weeks and days after the shooting. Armstrong was able to track Wilson’s location because Wilson had not turned on a security feature on a phone app.
According to police, Armstrong’s SUV was seen at the apartment where Wilson was killed the night she was killed. Police also said shell casings found at the scene matched a gun found at Armstrong’s home.
Investigators quickly cleared Strickland. Prosecutors said Wednesday that video and cellphone calls, texting and location data would confirm he was nowhere near the shooting.
Among the first witnesses was Caitlin Cash, the friend who found Wilson covered in blood and not breathing when she returned home from dinner and several police officers arrived at the scene. Jurors heard a recording of Cash’s emergency call and Wilson’s chest compressions as he counted. They later saw body camera footage of the first police officer who arrived and took over resuscitation efforts.
Wilson’s family left the courtroom to call 911, and her parents kept their heads down to avoid seeing the body camera footage. Cash was by their side during the footage in which he was seen pressing Wilson’s chest as police arrived.
The case made international headlines when Armstrong fled the country after his initial meeting with police, sparking a 43-day manhunt. Investigators said he sold his car for $12,000 and fled the country using his sister’s name, email, credit card and passport.
Federal authorities tracked Armstrong to Costa Rica, where prosecutors said he spent $6,425 on surgery to alter his appearance and used several aliases while trying to establish himself as a yoga instructor. He had cut and blackened his hair, and had a bandage on his nose and discoloration under his eyes when he was arrested at a beach hostel.
Armstrong told police when he was arrested that he had been injured in a surfing accident.
Armstrong’s attorney suggested the sudden flight from the country was not an attempt to flee justice.
“He would have no reason to know about anything [arrest] Warrant you’ll hear Caitlin is passionate about travel and passionate about yoga,” Puryear said.
The case took another turn when authorities said Armstrong tried to escape from two officers who escorted him to a medical appointment outside the jail. 11.
Cellphone video recorded in the parking lot showed Armstrong, handcuffed and in a striped prison outfit, trying to run away from an officer. Authorities said Armstrong appeared to plan his escape, claiming injuries to get outside medical appointments and remove his leg restraints.
He faces an additional felony escape charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison.