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(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part Austria series following Dateline NBC’s investigation into the murder of Moriah Wilson. Read part one here.)

After pro gravel biker Moriah “Mo” Wilson was gunned down in south Austin on May 11, police investigators are identifying a “person of interest,” Austin’s Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, a real estate agent, yoga instructor, amateur cyclist and longtime friend of Austin cyclist Colin Strickland.

Originally from Michigan, where a childhood friend described her as “fun-loving” and “smart,” Armstrong finished college and traveled the world studying yoga in places like Iceland, Bali and Mexico. She ended up in Austin where she met Colin Strickland. The two were business partners in a vintage trailer business, along with their own venture of flipping houses. “Business partners and life partners,” NBC said.

According to NBC’s analysis of a police report, a friend of Wilson’s, who remains anonymous, said that despite Strickland’s relationship with Kaitlin Armstrong, Mo Wilson and Strickland had been seeing each other since their “affair” in Austin months ago. NBC reports that this friend told police that prior to her death, Wilson received a series of calls from Kaitlin Armstrong warning her to stay away from Armstrong’s boyfriend, Colin Strickland.

A second tipster claimed to have been present when Armstrong first learned that Wilson and Strickland had seen each other. The tipster said Armstrong got “enraged” and threatened to kill Moriah Wilson.

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Police found an outstanding warrant for Armstrong’s arrest over an unpaid Botox bill and brought her in for questioning. She largely did not respond to their inquiries. Then the police discovered a typo in the arrest warrant and had to release her.

Six days after Wilson’s death, a police ballistics analysis pointed to a 9mm gun belonging to Kaitlin Armstrong. In his police interview, Strickland had told police that he had previously purchased two 9mm handguns, one for him and one for Armstrong.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Kaitlin Armstrong for first-degree murder, but by the time they went to arrest her, she was gone.

(dateline NBC)

Disappear

Austin police asked US Marshals to find her. The marshals believed Armstrong was hiding in Austin until 14 days after the murder when they discovered video from ABIA showing Armstrong masked and carrying a yoga mat about to board a plane 3 days after the murder. From Austin, Armstrong had flown to Houston and on to LaGuardia in New York, where the track went cold.

The marshals offered a $5,000 reward and asked the public for help. Help came with a tip that Armstrong had been seen a few days after his arrival in LaGuardia, New York. Investigators knew Kaitlin’s sister lived there and went to investigate, but found no sign of Armstrong.

Another clue came that Kaitlin was next seen at Newark International Airport on May 18. But as before, there was no trail to follow.

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But how could she travel without using her identity documents? And how could she survive without using her credit cards and bank account?

Back in Austin, police found her Jeep at a CarMax dealership, where she had sold it for $12,200 weeks earlier.

Costa Rica

Meanwhile, in the small surf town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, down the street, Kaitlin Armstrong had quietly arrived in town and was working for a local hostel, Don Jon’s, checking in guests and teaching yoga.

Dateline NBC

(dateline NBC)

She befriended a local who described Santa Teresa to NBC as “a really good place to hide…it’s the land of the unwanted and the ‘wanted’.”

At night, Armstrong became a regular at one bar in town. She called herself “Ari” but didn’t say much about the past.

She dyed her hair dark and cut it shorter. She traveled to the capital, San Jose, where she may have had plastic surgery to change the look of her nose. Armstrong was later identified by an employee at the surgical center, but when it was her, she used a different name to register for the procedure.

Armstrong told people in Santa Teresa that she had a surfing accident and needed treatment.

capture

In summary, Austin American Statesman reporter Ryan Autullo said that she “frankly lacked the discipline to not get caught.” She did some things to hide, but she also wanted to “have fun and live on the beach.”

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Around this time, US investigators contacted police in “yoga destinations” around the world and leaked Armstrong’s description. An official in Costa Rica did some research and learned of a “new yogi” in Santa Teresa.

43 days after Armstrong disappeared, police entered Don Jon’s and arrested her.

As a result, a client discovered Armstrong’s documents, which he photographed before turning them over to the police. These included her sister’s passport and Armstrong’s own passport, American Express Platinum Card, and her Social Security card.

Armstrong was extradited to the United States, returned to Austin, charged with murder and jailed on $3.5 million bail.

She pleaded not guilty and hired Austin criminal attorney Rick Cofer to defend her.

(dateline NBC)

Cofer, a former prosecutor, was interviewed by NBC. He explained every point of Armstrong’s disappearance and apparent escape to a skeptical interviewer.

He identifies what he says are some weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Then maybe he’s implying that he knows something prosecutors don’t. “Kaitlin Armstrong is not guilty, Cofer said. “Evidence will come out that Kaitlin Armstrong was nowhere near the scene of Miss Wilson’s murder.”

A trial date was set for Oct. 19, but a Travis County judge said in a ruling that an October trial was “highly unlikely.”





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