Defense attorney expects 'the government's own evidence will acquit Kaitlin Armstrong...she will be found not guilty' in Moriah Wilson murder case

In a two-hour NBC Dateline special, attorney Rick Cofer alludes to evidence that may exonerate Armstrong

NBC Dateline
(Image credit: NBC)

Kaitlin Armstrong, who stands accused of the first-degree murder of beloved pro cyclist Moriah 'Mo' Wilson will be found not guilty, expects defense attorney Rick Cofer.

Cofer appeared on NBC's two-hour Dateline special on September 16, stating that he not only expects his client to be found not guilty of murder, he expects it will be the government's own evidence that will acquit her.

"It will come out as an uncontroverted fact, the exact time that Miss Wilson was shot. That evidence will come out. And evidence will come out that Kaitlin Armstrong was nowhere near the scene of Miss Wilson's murder at that time," he says.

"A great wrong was done here. The killer needs to be held accountable. But Kaitlin Armstrong is not guilty."

Mo Wilson Foundation

(Image credit: Mo Wilson Foundation)

The murder that rocked the cycling community

Wilson, 25, was among the most talented and promising up-and-coming off-road racers in America. On May 11, she was found dead with several bullet wounds in a friend’s home in Austin, Texas. The Vermont-native had traveled to Austin to compete in the Gravel Locos, a 150-mile gravel race that she was favored to win.

In the days that followed, police brought in gravel pro and Red Bull athlete Colin Strickland for questioning as well as his girlfriend Kaitlin Armstrong. On the day of the murder, Strickland had spent the late afternoon and early evening with Wilson and returned her back to the apartment just minutes before her death.

After initial investigations, police named Armstrong as a suspect and obtained an arrest warrant for first-degree murder felony charges.

There was an alleged motive of a love triangle, a sighting of what appeared to be Armstrong's SUV at the crime scene and, even, the couple's possession of two 9mm handguns — the same caliber of the bullets that killed Wilson.

However, after her initial questioning by the police on May 12, Armstrong fled the state and, later, the country.

Armstrong was found and apprehended in Costa Rica on June 29th. She was then formally charged for the first-degree murder of Wilson on July 5. Armstrong plead not guilty to the accusations and also wished to exercise her right to a speedy trial.

NBC Dateline

(Image credit: NBC)

The Armstrong defense

As part of her legal team, Cofer previously stated a fair trial would not be possible in the Moriah Wilson murder case due to 'biased publicity' and filed a motion to prohibit prejudicial comment to media.

Cofer, himself a former persecutor, claims that the authorities have fueled the narratives reported in the media, meaning Armstrong hasn't been allowed a fair trial as a result.

"The result of this widespread, biased publicity is that there is virtually nowhere in the English-speaking world where Ms. Armstrong could receive a fair trial today. Through their inflammatory statements, government actors have contributed to a carnival-like media storm about Ms. Armstrong."

Wilson's murder made headlines around the world in mainstream and cycling media alike. Dateline's retelling of events is the first of several TV shows to air. The crime show featured interviews with investigators, members of the gravel community, journalists, and Armstrong's friends and defense attorney Rick Cofer.

During the sit-down interview with Dateline's host Keith Morrison, Cofer blasts law enforcement for their portrayal of Armstrong.

"The crux of law enforcement's theory from within the first 24 hours of this case, they had decided that Kaitlin Armstrong is a crazy, jealous person who, in a fit of rage, murdered Miss Wilson," he says.

What's more, Cofer believes the evidence against Armstrong is lacking and is mounting his defense around debunking the alleged motive and stated evidence. 

Evidence such as the ballistic report that ties Armstrong's gun to the killing. The report concludes that the potential for a match was 'significant,' but not concrete.

"Ballistic analysis is functionally a junk science. It is a type of witchcraft if you will," Cofer says. 

And then, of course, there's the alleged appearance of Armstrong's SUV at the crime scene.  

"So this dark-colored SUV, that's where the detective really wants to start to hang this horrible crime on Kaitlin Armstrong. There's no evidence presented ever of a license plate on this vehicle, of any description of an occupant of the vehicle." he says in the interview. 

When asked about  Armstrong's flight and drastic measures to change her appearance, including plastic surgery, Cofer said Armstrong had been afraid. Not of arrest, but of Strickland. 

"Her boyfriend of 3.5 years, her business partner, the person that she has lived with and made a life with, spent basically all day with homicide detectives being interrogated for murder," he states. "Kait Armstrong is, you can pretty well imagine, terrified. Her entire world is destroyed and shaken. Everything that she had understood is gone."

Cofer claims that before leaving Austin, Armstrong had consulted a lawyer to ask if she'd be in any legal trouble if she left. The arrest warrant for Armstrong had not yet been issued and so, according to Cofer, the lawyer encouraged Armstrong to be with family and to not talk with Strickland, who at the time was a potential suspect for murder. 

Even at the time of her flight to Costa Rica, there was "no live, active warrant for her arrest," Cofer points out. 

"All told, she's lived years of her life abroad. It makes perfect sense that when her life is turned upside down, destroyed and in a state of shock, she goes to Costa Rica to do yoga stuff."

As for the appearance changes, Cofer says there's no evidence to indicate that Armstrong had any plastic surgery. 

"The whole case against [Armstrong] is predicated on a deeply misogynistic view of her. It is predicated on this fictitious idea that she is a jealous, scorned woman who in a fit of rage would do the most terrible thing one can imagine," he states. 

"I expect this, the government's own evidence will acquit Kaitlin Armstrong. They just haven't looked at it. And if this case goes to trial, if the district attorney doesn't dismiss it before trial, she will be found not guilty."

What's next

The trial is slated for October 19. Cycling Weekly will report on developments as they emerge.

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Anne-Marije Rook
North American Editor

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist.