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Cycling

Moriah Wilson’s Murder Has Scarred The Cycling Scene

Wilson after a recent race.
Image: Moriah Wilson/Instagram

Late in the evening of Wednesday, May 11, star cyclist Moriah Wilson was found shot dead in an Austin, Texas, apartment. Wilson had traveled to Texas ahead of that weekend’s Gravel Locos race in Hico, where she was one of the favorites to win. Emergency medical services pronounced her dead on the scene. She was 25.

Wilson’s death shocked the American cycling community, both for the circumstances and the magnitude of the loss. Wilson was one of the brightest rising stars in the scene, a rapidly improving gravel and mountain bike racer who’d spent her spring 2022 campaign dominating the field. She announced herself with a runner-up finish at the 2021 Leadville 100 and a top-10 at Unbound Gravel, then won this year’s Sea Otter Classic and Belgian Waffle Ride, the latter by 25 minutes. By any metric, Wilson, who went by Mo, was one of the best off-road riders in North America. The horizon of her career wasn’t yet visible, and she looked to have the talent to win even larger races. As she told VeloNews earlier this month, she had just quit her job at Specialized to focus on racing full-time.

One day after Wilson was pronounced dead, a local outlet reported that Austin PD were investigating Wilson’s death as a homicide, and by Saturday, the police department confirmed the report and said they’d identified a person of interest. Less than a week later, the Austin PD issued an arrest warrant for a 34-year-old cyclist named Kaitlin Armstrong, and the U.S. Marshals announced that they’d be assisting in the investigation.

Armstrong is a yoga instructor and cyclist who lives in Austin, and her connection to the investigation is that Wilson appears to have spent time with Armstrong’s partner Colin Strickland in the hours before her death (more on this in a second). Armstrong is identified as Strickland’s “partner and financial guru” in the About section of the website for his vintage trailer restoration business. Strickland is also a professional cyclist, and like Wilson, is one of the best gravel riders on the continent. He got a late start to his pro racing career, but he’s made a real name for himself over the past six years, dominating the 2016 Red Hook Crit series and winning the 2019 Dirty Kanza (now Unbound Gravel) in a record time. Armstrong is not a pro, though she is an experienced rider and a part of the Austin riding scene. Her Strava has been wiped, but she reportedly logged a ride the morning of May 11 and showed up at The Meteor, a fixture in the Austin bike riding community.

The affidavit in support of Armstrong’s arrest warrant, which was first reported by the Boston Globe, lays out the timeline of the events of May 11. Armstrong went for a morning ride (Strickland’s Strava profile shows his most recent ride as May 10). Wilson, who had arrived the previous day, texted the friend she was staying with in Austin around 5:30 that she’d be meeting a friend for a swim. She used the apartment front door’s access code at 5:55 p.m., then again at 8:36 p.m. after getting dropped off by Strickland, with whom she’d swam and eaten dinner. Immediately after Strickland dropped Wilson off, he texted Armstrong. “Hey! Are you out? I went to drop some flowers for [a friend] at her son’s house up north and my phone died. Heading home unless you have another food suggestion,” he wrote, per the affidavit. Strickland told the cops that he didn’t see Armstrong again until 9:21 p.m., when she arrived back at their house in a 2012 black Jeep Cherokee with a mounted bike rack.

One minute after Strickland texted Armstrong about dropping off flowers, police say a black 2012 Jeep Cherokee with a mounted bike rack pulled up in front of the apartment where Wilson was staying. At 9:56 p.m., police received a welfare check call, and at 10:10 p.m., Wilson was pronounced dead of three gunshot wounds. Cops brought Armstrong in for questioning on May 12, where they confronted her about a Jeep being seen at the murder scene. She had a Class B warrant out for her arrest for an unrelated incident, though cops told her it was expired and she could leave at any time. According to the affidavit, she mostly nodded and expressed confusion when pressed about any specifics. Strickland drove to the police station that day to cooperate, and he told the cops that he and Armstrong had been dating for three years, though he and Wilson struck up a romantic relationship in October 2021 while he and Armstrong were separated. They got back together shortly afterwards, and Strickland says Armstrong confronted Wilson. According to an anonymous tipster who called the police on May 14 and 15, Armstrong recently discovered that Wilson and Strickland had an ongoing relationship, and she allegedly told the tipster that she wanted to kill Wilson.

During Strickland’s interview with the cops, he told the police that he purchased two handguns for himself and Armstrong in December 2021 and January 2022. Police say that a ballistics analysis of shell casings found at the murder scene bear a “significant” resemblance to one of the guns that Strickland bought last Winter.

“There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime,” Strickland said in a statement to the Austin American-Statesman. “I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable situation.” Several of Strickland’s highest profile sponsors have dropped him in the past week.

As for Armstrong, nobody knows where she is. Authorities are looking for her Jeep, though they haven’t found it, and U.S. Marshals said on Wednesday that she boarded a flight on May 14 from Austin to Houston, where she connected to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Austin PD was asked why she was released after her May 12 interview, and the cops admitted that they had committed a significant clerical error. “Armstrong was mistakenly released from custody on the misdemeanor warrant, because her date-of-birth in our report management system did not match the date-of-birth on the warrant,” Detective Richard Spitler said.

Members of the Austin cycling community will hold a memorial ride in Wilson’s memory this weekend.