A jury has found Texas yoga instructor Caitlin Armstrong guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of romantic rival Anna Moriah “Moe” Wilson.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours Thursday before reaching a guilty verdict.
Wilson’s family and friends hugged each other as they sobbed after the verdict, while Armstrong’s family appeared to be in a state of shock. The defendant’s mother sat stoically as her father and sister left the courtroom, the latter visibly in tears.
Wilson, 25, was found with multiple gunshot wounds at a friend’s home in Austin on the night of May 11, 2022. The cycling prodigy was once romantically linked to Armstrong’s then-boyfriend Colin Strickland, a fellow professional cyclist, and was found shot to death hours after the meeting with him, the police said.
Armstrong, 35, was arrested in June 2022 at a hostel in Costa Rica after a 43-day manhunt and has since been held on $3.5 million bail. She had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Wilson’s death.
The sentencing phase followed the sentencing in an Austin courtroom, with the court hearing testimony from witnesses, including Wilson’s mother, father and brother. The sentencing hearing is scheduled to resume on Friday.
Wilson’s mother, Karen Wilson, told the court Thursday that her daughter was meant to “live and move and shine and listen and laugh and be such a unique person.”
Asked by prosecutors about the moment she learned of her daughter’s death, she said between sobs: “It was the worst moment of my life. Since then my whole life has never been the same. Everything is upside down. I will never be the same.”
Her father, Eric Wilson, likened it to living through a bad nightmare – “but it’s not a nightmare, it’s reality”.
“I think about it every night. If I fall asleep, when I wake up, that’s the first thought in my mind. I live with it every day,” he said.
Her brother Matthew Wilson said his sister was his “closest confidant”.
“My sister’s life was taken for no reason at all,” he said. “She will never ride a bike again; she will never take a 20-minute break from work to bake banana bread in her kitchen; will never marry; will never buy a home; will never have children; she’ll never meet someone she loves and … my parents will never be able to see that happen, see her enjoy her life.”
Caitlin Cash, who found Wilson bleeding on the floor of her home, described to the court the guilt, post-traumatic stress, panic attacks and paranoia she has experienced since then.
The defense also presented witnesses, including Armstrong’s father and sister, before the sentencing.
Her father, Mike Armstrong, described his daughter as “strong” and “someone who doesn’t get excited about things”. He offered his condolences to the Wilson family, saying: “I know what we’re going through is terrible, but what they are is worse.”
After calling nearly 40 witnesses during the two-week trial, Travis County District Attorney Rick Jones told jurors during closing statements Thursday that there was “overwhelming” evidence pointing to Armstrong pulling the trigger.
Prosecutors presented evidence they said showed Armstrong’s 2012 Jeep Cherokee driving around the block of the residence the night of the murder, that her firearm was used in the killing and that her DNA was possibly found on Wilson’s bicycle.
“Only Caitlin Armstrong, the defendant, answers to these facts [were] presented to you through that witness chair,” Jones said.
Prosecutors also played audio Thursday of the moments Wilson was fatally shot — twice in the head and once in the heart “for good measure,” Jones said. They also showed footage jurors said showed Armstrong trying to run from deputies in the weeks before the trial while being transported to an off-site doctor’s appointment.
“She’s not just running from the sheriff’s department,” Jones told jurors. “She’s running away from you and you and you and you and you and you.”
Jones asked jurors not to go down defense “rabbit holes.”
In closing arguments, the defense said Armstrong was “trapped in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.”
“There’s a lot of frying, but not a lot of steak,” said defense attorney Rick Coffer. “This is a case based on conjecture; it is based on confirmation bias and a lack of direct evidence.”
Coffer said police narrowed Armstrong down to fit an easy narrative of a “rejected, jealous lover” and did not investigate other potential suspects in the case.
“She had to be portrayed as a jealous psychopath to create the motive,” Coffer said as he disputed prosecutors’ characterization of her as a jealous girlfriend.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Puryear also disputed the state’s DNA and ballistics evidence and told jurors that Armstrong was free to leave when she flew to Costa Rica days after being questioned by police about Wilson’s death.
In concluding their closing, prosecutors questioned why Armstrong used a false name and passport to fly to Costa Rica and sought plastic surgery while there.
“These are all indications of guilt, ladies and gentlemen,” State’s Attorney Guillermo Gonzalez told jurors. “This is not someone who is having fun. This is someone who is a fugitive and is desperately trying to escape.”
Armstrong declined to testify at the trial.
Strickland took the stand and testified about the “tumultuous” relationship between him and Armstrong.
ABC News’ Olivia Osteen, Megan Mariani, Keturah Gray and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.