By Jim Vertuno
A woman convicted of murder in the shooting death of rising professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson faces up to life in prison in Texas when sentenced in a case that led investigators on a 43-day international search to find her.
Kaitlin Armstrong, 35, was convicted Thursday. The jurors also will recommend a sentence and are expected to resume deliberating on Friday.
Prosecutors said Armstrong gunned down the 25-year-old Wilson in a jealous rage in May 2022. Wilson, also known as “Mo,” had briefly dated Armstrong’s boyfriend several months earlier. Wilson went swimming and to a meal with him the day she was killed.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours after two weeks of testimony before delivering their verdict.
“From the day she was born, she had a force in her,” Wilson's mother, Karen Wilson, told jurors Thursday at the start of the punishment phase of the trial. “She lived as if every day was her last day. And she lived it so fully. She never wasted any time. ... It’s as if she knew her life would be short.”
Wilson's family and friends, who sat in the front row for most of the trial, hugged and cried after the verdict.
Caitlin Cash, the friend who found Wilson's body and tried to perform CPR, told jurors she had texted Wilson's mother earlier that day with a photo of her starting a bike ride with a note: “Your girl is in safe hands here in Austin."
“I felt a lot of guilt not being able to protect her," Cash said. "I fought for her with everything I had.”
Kaitlin Armstrong’s younger sister Christine and their mother sat behind the defense table and cried after the verdict. Armstrong’s father stood silently for several minutes.
Christine Armstrong told jurors her older sister “is not a bad person.”
“She's such a special person,” Christine Armstrong said before looking at her sister. “I’ve always looked up to you. ... She’s always cared for other people.”
A Vermont native and former alpine skier at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Wilson was an emerging star in pro gravel and mountain bike racing. She was visiting Austin ahead of a race in Texas, where she was among the favorites to win.
Kaitlin Armstrong tracked Wilson to the apartment where she was staying through a fitness app and shot her three times, twice in the head and once through the heart, investigators said.
“I would have done anything to stand in the way of that bullet," Karen Wilson said. "She did not deserve a death like that.”
Kaitlin Armstrong did not testify on her own behalf during the trial.
Her Jeep was seen near the apartment around the time Wilson was shot and bullet casings found near Wilson’s body matched a gun Armstrong owned. Armstrong briefly met with police before selling her vehicle and using her sister’s passport to fly to Costa Rica.
She spent more than $6,000 on a nose job there and changed the color and style of her hair to evade authorities before she was arrested at a beachside hostel, investigators said.
Armstrong again tried to escape authorities during an Oct. 11 medical appointment outside of jail. She faces a separate felony escape charge.