Kaitlin Armstrong Defense Team: Police "Concocted a Misogynistic and Fictitious Story"

Attorneys seek prompt hearing on motions to quash evidence

L to R: Mo Wilson, Colin Strickland, Kaitlin Armstrong (Images via Instagram, U.S. Marshals Service)

The case police have built against Austin yoga instructor Kaitlin Armstrong in the murder of a young, rising star cyclist sounds like the plot of a mystery novel. It centers on motive: Armstrong and Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson were in love with the same man, Colin Strickland (also a well-known cyclist), but Armstrong had him first.

That Armstrong fled the country a few days after the murder – dyed her hair, used a fraudulent passport, and ended up on an idyllic beach in Costa Rica for more than a month while authorities in the U.S. searched for her – may seem a de facto admission of guilt. Her defense team doesn’t refute that she left the country using a new identity, but in a 178-page motion filed Aug. 18, they’ve taken aim at almost every other piece of evidence. On Friday, Aug. 19, they told District Judge Brenda Kennedy they're ready for her to consider these motions now; as of press time, a hearing (which may or may not involve taking up the attorneys' request) is set for Wednesday, August 24.

That motion, obtained by the Chronicle, asserts that that affidavit was full of “lies, mischaracterizations, and reckless disregard for the truth.” The motion also includes the transcript of the lengthy police interview with Colin Strickland, as well as pieces of Armstrong’s own interrogation. (Excerpts included below)

Here’s what both sides agree on. While 25-year-old Wilson was staying at a friend’s house in Austin (ahead of a race in Dallas a few days later), she and Strickland went on a secret swimming date. Police allege the evidence suggests that Armstrong followed Wilson into her home and shot her twice in the head and once in the chest, then quickly fled, returning home in time to meet up with Strickland less than an hour later.

Armstrong's defense counsel says there’s no good evidence, and police know it, despite claims made in the affidavit: No, a test fire did not show that there was a “significant” potential that Armstrong’s gun and the casings found near Wilson’s body matched. No, Armstrong did not nod when detectives said maybe she’d been hanging around Wilson’s home because she was upset. No, Strickland did not say Armstrong blocked Wilson in his phone. No, a car like Armstrong’s was not seen near Wilson’s house one minute after Wilson arrived home – the detective later found that a security camera’s timestamp was wrong, and took more than 50 days to update the report. No, an anonymous female caller’s account that Armstrong was shaking with rage and said she wanted to kill Wilson was not credible – a second anonymous caller said he was present during the same conversation the first caller had described, but Armstrong didn’t seem furious and didn’t say she wanted to kill Wilson.

And no, a neighbor didn’t observe a bike speeding away from Wilson’s place the night of her death. Actually, he told police he was high the night of the murder and said, “I may or may not have imagined the whisking bike part and having the impression of a southbound bike. But I, it’s like … actually hard for me to testify in a court of law to that only because like I didn’t fucking see it and it could be my imagination. … Like the whole thing about me saying there was a bike? Like I don’t fuckin’ know for sure.”

Armstrong’s attorneys, Rick Cofer and Mark Pryor, conclude: “[APD] Detective [Richard] Spitler concocted a misogynistic and fictitious story portraying Ms. Armstrong as a jealous woman scorned by Mr. Strickland.”

The affidavit that led to Armstrong’s arrest lays it out like this: On May 11, 2022 just before 10 pm, police found Wilson dead in the bathroom of a friend’s home in East Austin. The friend who lived there told police she gave Wilson a unique code to lock and unlock the door, and an app on her phone notified her every time that code was entered. Wilson had locked the door just before 6pm and texted her friend around that time that she was going swimming with Strickland. Strickland, a well-known racer who had been sponsored by Red Bull and other brands, was in a 3-½ year relationship with Kaitlin Armstrong, with whom he shared a home.

When police questioned Strickland on May 12, he spoke highly of Armstrong. He said they’d broken up briefly in October, Wilson had visited and he and Wilson dated. He said Armstrong may have blocked Wilson’s number in his phone. He said he had to change Wilson’s name in his phone to avoid arguments with Armstrong. He said he did go swimming with Wilson on May 11 and lied to Armstrong about where he was going.

And Strickland told police he drove Wilson home on his motorcycle and dropped her off around 8:30pm. According to the resident’s app, the door was unlocked with Wilson’s unique code at 8:36pm. Also at 8:36, Strickland texted Armstrong “"Hey! Are you out? went to drop some flowers for [a sick friend] at her sons [sic] house up north and my phone died. Heading home unless you have another food suggestion.” (Shortly thereafter is when police had believed a neighbor's doorbell camera had captured a black SUV with a bike rack similar to Armstrong's near Wilson's house. That proved to be in error, with a faulty time stamp.)

Then, at 8:48pm, Strickland was recorded driving near the 4900 block of the southbound I-35 frontage road. (Google Maps calculates the drive time from Wilson’s location to that block at about 9 minutes, which would have given Strickland only until 8:39 or so at Wilson’s home before leaving.) Strickland told police Armstrong arrived home around 9:20pm.

The affidavit lays out other facts that it says point to Armstrong: the casings, the anonymous caller who said Armstrong was “shaking” with anger, the neighbor who saw a bike speed past, Armstrong’s nodding during her brief interview with police. The defense argues that, when describing the casing to gun potential match, the affidavit, “is scientifically unfounded and grossly overstates the significance of a NIBIN [National Integrated Ballistic Information Network] ‘investigative lead.’” Police described the lead as suggesting a “significant” “potential” that the gun and casings were a match, while the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives calls a NIBIN lead “an unconfirmed, potential association” between pieces of evidence.

As for Kaitlin nodding her head to the statement that she was at Wilson’s home because she was upset, the motion states that a video of her brief interrogation on May 12 (after being picked up on a 2018 warrant for theft-of-services that proved bogus) showed Detective Katy Conner saying, “maybe you were upset and just in the area” at which point Armstrong did not move her head. When Conner added “I don’t know, because I don’t have your story,” then Armstrong slightly nodded.

One of the more complicated truths to unravel is what exactly Strickland’s two police interrogations (he had attorney Claire Carter present for the second one, on May 17) tell us about the case. While Strickland did say he suspected that Armstrong had blocked Wilson’s number in his phone, he also repeatedly told officers it could have been a glitch on his phone. While he described her as occasionally jealous, he also said her jealousy was “normal” and that she was, “one of the least volatile women I have dated in terms of emotion over up – upwelling of, like, anger and jealousy and emotion.” He did describe the two breaking up in October, but said Kaitlin was dating other people herself during that time and didn’t seem upset. When pressed repeatedly about Armstrong’s anger and potential to kill, Strickland said “I cannot fucking fathom it. I cannot fathom it,” and “this is not possible in my experience of three years spending every – virtually every day with this person.”

Strickland also told detectives repeatedly that he could tell they were trying to create a “narrative” that painted Armstrong as jealous, but he didn’t want to be part of it. When a detective left the room during his second interrogation, Strickland’s attorney asked, “Is there something that you wanted to say last time that you don't feel like you got to say.” Strickland responded, “I have something to say. Fuck you guys for manipulating me.”


Kaitlin Armstrong Interview (May 12) (excerpt)

The following exchange was included in a motion filed by Armstrong’s lawyers to suppress statements, observations, and recordings made by law enforcement..

DET. CONNER: So, I’d like to talk to you and kind of get a little bit more information on that but to be able to do that I have to read you your rights just so that you know and you’re protected and things like that. Okay?

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: Okay. And so, if you’re reading me my rights, then I should –

DET. CONNER: That’s because of the warrant.

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: -- have an attorney.

DET. CONNER: Because you’re under arrest for the warrant. So, you’re technically in custody because of that warrant. So, they’re two separate things. Does that make sense?

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: I think so, but I have never heard … (Knocking)

DET. CONNER: Oh.

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: But I’ve never heard of this warrant before, and I don’t know what you’re talking about – (Knocking)

DET. CONNER: Yeah.

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: And it doesn’t seem like you can give me any information on it.

DET. CONNER: So – (Knocking)

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: You want to read me – are they knocking here?

DET. CONNER: I think it’s for something else. So, with the warrant – (Knocking)

DET. CONNER: Okay. Well, good news. So, that’s what they were just knocking on the door. Apparently, that warrant, the date of birth was wrong. So, they had your name, but the date of birth is wrong. So, it’s to a different person. So, that’s not – you’re not under arrest. Okay?

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: Okay.

DET. CONNER: I know. It’s a little crazy. Yeah. So, you’re –

KAITLIN ARMSTRONG: They just came to my house and put me in handcuffs for no reason?

DET. CONNER: So there was a warrant they thought was you because of the name. . . So, that’s – there’s some miscommunication on that. But I would really like to talk to you.


Colin Strickland Interviews (May 12 and 17) (excerpts)

The following exchanges were included in a motion to call what's known as a Franks hearing challenging the grounds for a warrant, filed by Armstrong’s lawyers.

Det. Richard Spitler says on Wilson’s phone there was mention of being at an event or dinner where she saw Strickland with Armstrong. Strickland says it could have been at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Bentonville.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Yeah. There was a – there was a dinner for -- there was a dinner for -- I believe -- there was a -- there was a dinner for, I believe it was, our -- I can't remember who put it on. I think it was the people -- there was a -- I guess Visit Bentonville is kind of a cycling -- I don't know if it was Visit Bentonville or Meteor. Meteor's our – Meteor's a sponsor of Mo and I.

Strickland says he sat at a table with Wilson and maybe ten other people, then went to a rooftop party with Armstrong which Wilson also attended. Det. Spitler asks about how Armstrong was feeling.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I mean, she -- I don't know. I don't -- I can't tell you exactly. She's kind of a guarded person. She was just -- you know, she was always just a -- I mean, she just wasn't -- I don't know. It's hard to say. I can't read exactly what a woman is feeling --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- in terms of, like, love some -- I -- you know, some women are -- are -- I don't know. I don't know women. I can't tell you that.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I can't speak to, like, how she was –

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- in terms of, you know, we had had a -- we had a relationship hiatus and Kaitlin had -- we were -- after Mo was in Austin for a week and we -- Mo and I had -- I had broken up with Kaitlin before Mo came to town.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: And then I had -- I actually did not know that she was coming to Austin in October. I had no idea.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: We hadn't discussed that and I don't think so because it felt like a surprise. And then she was here and I said, oh, let's hang out. So, I was mentally ready to kind of move on. And I know after Mo left town, after we – Kaitlin's things were still at my house, we were sleeping in separate rooms and effectively, you know, Kaitlin was on Bumble. I know she had went on several dates with people and I never asked what -- how -- what they were -- what extent they were evolving a relationship.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: But I know she went on several -- had several men that she was dating of sorts and I was fine with it. I mean, that was kind of the understanding of course.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: So, yeah. It just seems very weird to me that she would be -- that there would be any dwelling on fixating on a person --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- when she was, like, live -- you know, moving on to --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- other relationships, you know, at that time

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: That's all I can say.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Do you know if Kaitlin ever tried to call Mo or send her messages through, you know, like Instagram or anything?

COLIN STRICKLAND: I -- I know that in – at the -- right after in October before -- like, right when I had started, essentially, seeing Mo, just hanging out with Mo in Austin, Kaitlin did call her and pretty much just said, hey, do you know that I -- you know, I pretty much live at Colin's house -- or I don't know exactly what was -- I have no idea.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Of course.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I didn't really dive in. But I do know she called her and Mo was like that was really weird. Somebody called -- some random person called me and asked me -- I'm -- I felt so ashamed. Like I'm just so sorry.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: That was my ex-girlfriend I broke up with, but I also knew Mo had just broken up with her ex-boyfriend, so she said. So it seemed just like -- I don't know -- being in relatively similar situations.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: At least in my mind that's what I was --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Okay. Yeah. If you could hang on real quick. I'm so sorry. I have to take this call. I will be right back.

CLAIRE CARTER (Strickland's attorney): We're being recorded right now.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Uh-huh.

CLAIRE CARTER: Right now. Okay? I would rather you --

COLIN STRICKLAND: I feel like they're just -- they're just leading a narrative. They're just trying to lead me along and do I -- I mean, do I have to answer?

CLAIRE CARTER: Here's what you do – here's what you do. You don't have to answer. We can walk out at any time. Okay?

COLIN STRICKLAND: I don't know what the -- whether it's -- that's –

CLAIRE CARTER: It's totally permissible. It's nothing they can hold against you. It is you – you would be finished talking and I -- I'm happy to do that for you. If -- what I would tell you, in general, is if you don't remember something --

COLIN STRICKLAND: Don't -- don't make conjecture? Don't try to remember?

CLAIRE CARTER: You don't need to speculate. Don't speculate. And -- and I think you're trying to be helpful but if -- but if -- you know, even if you're just answering a question in terms of what would I usually do in those circumstances --

COLIN STRICKLAND: try to answer in a -- in a short, factual way.

CLAIRE CARTER: That's right. I -- I see you being very factual about the things that you experienced and saw, right, like I saw a Porsche. I was careful on the motorcycle. I walked into the apartment, sat down on the couch. I see you being factual about those things. And then I see you trying to, like, figure out the significance of these questions, like, do you know if she had any friends. And so, if you don't know, then I would encourage you to -- rather than try to work their narrative in any way --

CLAIRE CARTER: Okay? Is there something that you wanted to say last time that you don't feel like you got to say, I think you can -- you can say that.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I have something to say. Fuck you guys for manipulating me.

CLAIRE CARTER: Well --

COLIN STRICKLAND: Someone's grieving but that's not relevant.

CLAIRE CARTER: Well, you can say I feel like you're manipulating me. I'm grieving. Can I just answer the questions. And the answer is you can walk out. You don't have to participate at all. You have -- you have given your narration of events. You have been questioned hard about it. Today they're following up in a way that... it seems less about you and more like trying out other theories and if you don't want to be a part of trying out the other theories, you don't have to be.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I don't because it's – this comes back to, if anything, that's relevant I would -

CLAIRE CARTER: You're not in a position to know.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Well, no. If anything was relevant and if -- then I would -- we wouldn't be in this position because I would have taken a different course of action in my life to not --

CLAIRE CARTER: You wouldn't be in this situation and nobody else would be either.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Nobody's in a situation like this. So, it's –

CLAIRE CARTER: Well, I guess you're probably going to have to say that.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Yeah.

CLAIRE CARTER: And I think I'd be specific. Look, it seems like you're going in a very specific direction. If I had any knowledge of anyone's propensity to do something like this, if that's what happened, I -- I would not -- I would not still be in a relationship or, you know, right? And I think it's okay to say that. You wouldn't have been.

COLIN STRICKLAND: It's absolutely insane.

CLAIRE CARTER: Was Kaitlin hard to get along with that weekend in Arkansas? You don't have to answer it but that's what he's --

COLIN STRICKLAND: (Indiscernible) she's really good.

CLAIRE CARTER: -- that's what he's wondering.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Not particularly.

CLAIRE CARTER: Right. I know in my relationships when something is actively bothering me like that, I -- it's hard for me to go through ordinary motions and kind of hold it together and act like nothing's bothering me, right? So, I would expect over a full weekend like that you would have seen some signs of unhappiness. It sounds like you didn't.

Det. Spitler comes back into the room.

CLAIRE CARTER: You want to speak for yourself or you want me to?

COLIN STRICKLAND: No, no.

CLAIRE CARTER: It's all right?

COLIN STRICKLAND: I'm just -- we were just talking, of course, just filling -- filling time and I -- of course, I'm more than happy to help give you any information you want.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yes.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Of course that's helpful.

DET. DICK SPITLER: It's been extremely helpful so far. I mean, you've been -- you've been great.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I just am -- I just – I mean beyond factual questions you have --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- I don't -- I just don't want -- I don't feel comfortable making any speculations about a narrative -- I understand your work -- everything is -- everything's on the table

COLIN STRICKLAND: I mean, if you're wondering is there -- were there signs, was there this, was there that, if there were any fucking signs I would have extricated myself from --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- a relationship and gotten a lot of space and a restraining order or something.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: So, that's all I can say regarding, like, you know, is -- is this part -- is my partner unstable? I mean, I -- I have -- I've never seen any signs of that. If I had I would not --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah./

COLIN STRICKLAND: There's plenty of other women in the world and the community that I could spend my time with.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: So, that's all I can say –

DET. DICK SPITLER: You know Kaitlin a lot better than me.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Your associate [Det. Conner] definitely was trying to get -- I mean, trying to get me to, essentially, implicate somebody --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- that -- in something that's the most serious and severe. I mean, you guys are the -- you have the evidence. I don't have any fucking evidence beyond just -- so.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: [Armstrong is] an incredibly, kind, caring, sweet person who has helped me take care of my aging mother, she helped her secure like $20,000 in unemployment --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- by just going – being on the phone for five days. Like she is -- has only shown shining examples. I mean, in my experience has only shown absolute, above and beyond examples of human compassion and thoughtfulness and care and going far out of her way for ridiculous things, like, ridiculous extents to help other humans.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: And that's just been my experience. That's why I've been with -- with her for three years even.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah. Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: You know, despite having my doubts initially if we were, you know -- if I wanted to be together for a long time --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- based on just stupid things like, you know, the kind of clothes she wears and stuff, you know.

...

Strickland says that on May 12, after both he and Armstrong had been interrogated, he ate with his father, came home and Armstrong was there.

COLIN STRICKLAND: And we were both just shell shocked. We really didn't say much --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- honestly because what is there to say?

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: It's a -- it's a terrifying situation in every way.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: And, you know, we, essentially, just -- we -- just slept -- tried to sleep. Probably slept an hour or two over the course of eight hours. Walked to the coffee shop a few blocks away from the house, still in just a daze in a stupor just, you know -- and she's -- she's just, like, I don't know what to do. I don't know what's going on. And I said, well, it's -- I -- I am -- I can't even -- I said, I just can't believe I -- you're in this -- I dragged you into this situation in any way and all we can do is, like, write down, make -- like while it's relatively fresh write down in absolute, like -- just like I told you --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- because it's all out there. There's no -- I don't -- I don't know. Maybe I'm not in your -- your business but I can only imagine it's pretty straightforward piecing together. Unless something is, like, deviously premeditated, then, I just can't imagine being able to perpetrate something --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- with the expectation of it -- of getting away with it as it were.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: And then that was our conver- -- we walked to coffee. Walked back. She said they have my phone. So, I mean, where do you think you should get a phone? I said I think Walmart would have one.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I mean, this is between long periods of just silence because it's so --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I mean, we're just trying to, like, attain some sense of normalcy, I guess.

...

Strickland says they invested together. He did a cash-out refinance on his home for $350,000 and about $250,000 went into a trailer restoration business. She invested the other roughly $100,000 in the market. When she disappeared, he texted her to move the $100,000 so he could pay $40,000 in legal fees for a real estate case. She didn’t respond.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Okay. Do you think that she is capable of hurting Mo?

COLIN STRICKLAND: If I thought she was physically capable of hurting another human, I would have extricated myself immediately from that situation, not only for my -- not so much for my own personal safety but my concern for another human.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

CLAIRE CARTER: So, what's that answer?

COLIN STRICKLAND: The answer's no.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Okay.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I don't believe in any way she's capable of that.

DET. DICK SPITLER: So, whenever you ended up coming down here and I told you that we knew that Kaitlin's car was outside of [Wilson’s friend’s] house, one of your first responses was I knew I shouldn't have bought that gun.

CLAIRE CARTER: Do you remember saying that? I don't -- I'm not -- do you remember saying that?

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah. She -- yeah, yeah, yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: I don't remember saying that.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Okay.

COLIN STRICKLAND: But I can -- I -- immediately -- just the fact that I have those in my sphere –

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- is why -- well, not why we're here but that's a big fucking thing.

Det. Spitler asks Strickland questions about Armstrong’s capacity to become violent.

COLIN STRICKLAND: It's not fucking possible in my experience. It's not possible.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh. Okay.

COLIN STRICKLAND: To suspend reality for the amount of time it would take to further -- to -- for this entire course of events whatever -- however long it would take to say, I'm going to let go of everything I've built in my life, all these projects, these amaze -- some beautiful home she's been meticulously working on in south Austin in my neighborhood, this rental property in Lockhart, this company we own poised to just be like a beautiful -- we've had multiple articles written about our Wheelhouse Mobile –

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- we are co-owning this. She has so much amazing stuff going on --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- to --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- lose consciousness for long enough to commit a murder is not possible?

DET. DICK SPITLER: Yeah.

COLIN STRICKLAND: It's not possible and yet -- knowing all that, everything not only are you -- not only are you ending somebody's life and destroying their entire family network --

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: -- but you are destroying your own life, you're destroying my career, my life.

DET. DICK SPITLER: Uh-huh.

COLIN STRICKLAND: As it is -- as I know it, every -- I don't believe that's possible -- in any way possible.

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