Austin woman, suspect in cyclist murder, appears in court

U.S.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin woman accused of shooting and killing cyclist and love rival Moriah Wilson at an east Austin home appeared in court Wednesday during a pre-trial hearing.

Police said Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, shot Wilson in May and left the country shortly afterward. Authorities spent 43 days searching for Armstrong, who they believed was connected to the deadly shooting. They believe she altered her appearance and left the country using someone else’s passport.

The hearing Wednesday was procedural and focused on the arrest warrant originally filed by Richard Spitler, the lead homicide detective on Wilson’s murder case. There is still one more witness to cross-examine, which is scheduled for next Monday.

Armstrong’s defense team filed a Frank’s Motion — a legal proceeding when a court is asked to determine whether a police officer or detective lied in pursuing an arrest warrant.

They alleged Spilter had reckless disregard for the truth when filing the arrest warrant that allowed police to arrest Armstrong, and that he intentionally left out crucial information in the document. 

“Just be crystal clear, everything in that affidavit is true?” Rick Cofer, one of Armstrong’s defense attorneys, asked while questioning Spilter.

“Yes sir,” Spitler replied. 

For example, in the warrant, Spitler wrote Wilson and Colin Strickland, the cyclist Armstrong was living with at the time, were in a romantic relationship. Cofer spent several minutes questioning Spitler on whether “relationship” was an accurate term to describe what was going on between Strickland and Wilson. 

Cofer also alleged Spitler filed dates and times incorrectly, relied too much on information from anonymous callers and didn’t corroborate reports from other Austin Police Department staff working on the case. 

When state attorneys cross-examined Spilter, they said he was working off the information he had available and wrote the affidavit with care. Any errors Spitler made were not severe enough to qualify as reckless disregard for the truth, the attorneys argued. 

Also questioned was Katy Conner, an APD homicide detective, who was the first APD officer to interview Armstrong about Wilson. 

APD arrested Armstrong because it already had a warrant from a previous incident. In that case, she allegedly did not pay for a Botox session and was charged with theft of service, a class B misdemeanor.

Armstrong was arrested and brought into the APD station for that charge, but Conner questioned Armstrong on her connection to Wilson and not about the theft of service charge.

Just as Conner began to talk with Armstrong, an APD officer informed her the birth date on the warrant was incorrect and that Armstrong was no longer under arrest.  

Conner told Armstrong she was allowed to leave but continued to ask questions about her relationship with Wilson and Strickland. This lasted for about 10 minutes. A video was played at the hearing.

Armstrong’s defense argued Conner detained Armstrong and didn’t allow Armstrong to leave after the warrant didn’t hold. State attorneys conversely asserted Conner was within her right as a detective to ask about Armstrong’s connection to Wilson, and also that Conner informed Armstrong she was free to leave five times. 

The state attorney showed a video of the interview where Strickland was in the fetal position in the corner at one point when APD was questioning him about Wilson. 

“Colin Strickland was a ball on a floor … He was told that he was the last man seen alive with (Wilson),” one of the state’s attorneys said.

Conversely, he said, Armstrong had just been informed a woman from their community had been murdered.

“And she was as cool as the other side of the pillow,” he said.

Find some of KXAN’s previous reporting on the case here:

A timeline of the case can be found here.

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