Austin yoga teacher Kaitlin Armstrong has been found guilty of murdering professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson.
The verdict over the May 11 2022 murder of 25-year-old Wilson came after just two hours of deliberations on Thursday.
Wilson’s family members in the courtroom cried and embraced each other while Armstrong remained emotionless as the verdict was read.
The two women had become involved in a love triangle with Armstrong’s then on-and-off boyfriend and Wilson’s fellow cyclist Colin Strickland.
Following the murder, Armstrong had fled the country, remaining at large for 43 days before being apprehended by authorities.
After the guilty verdict was returned, the court moved to sentencing immediately. Victim impact statements were given by Wilson’s friends and family.
Caitlin Cash, with whom Wilson had been staying in Austin, said she “held a lot of guilt” for not protecting her friend, and recalled giving her over 100 chest compressions in an attempt to revive her.
Ms Cash said she had texted a picture of Wilson to the cyclist’s mother on 11 May 2022, writing “...your girl is in safe hands here in Austin.” The recollection prompted an audible sob from Wilson’s mother in the courtroom.
Wilson’s brother, Matthew Wilson, broke down when describing how he had learned of his sister’s death, telling the court he felt his pain had been different to that of his parents.
“My sister was my closest confidant. My only sibling. Only person in the world that I could talk to about certain experiences that only she could understand. She was a really, really good listener,” he said.
“My sister had her life taken from her. For no reason at all. She’ll never ride a bike again. She’ll never take a 20-minute break from work to bake banana bread in her kitchen.
“She’ll never get married. She’ll never buy a home or have kids. She’ll never meet someone she loves. I will never be able to see that all happen and see her enjoy her life and build her life.”
Over the course of two and half weeks jurors heard testimony from Mr Strickland, friends of Armstrong, and law enforcement personnel. The defence called experts who sought to discredit the state’s DNA and ballistics evidence.
During closing arguments, prosecutors pointed out what they suggested was overwhelming evidence linking Armstrong to the crime, and asked jurors to ignore the “rabbit holes” the defence had asked them to go down.
Assistant District Attorney Rick Jones told the jury: “I’ve never seen so much evidence in my life against one person.”
“The last thing Mo Wilson did was scream in terror,” Mr Jones said. “She stood over her after she shot her in the head twice and put another bullet in her heart ... you heard the medical examiner. That third bullet was in her heart.”
Mr Jones said the evidence against Armstrong was among the most damning he had seen in his career, noting that two of Ms Armstrong’s friends testified she told them she wanted to, or could, kill Wilson.
Vehicle satellite records, phone-tracking data and surveillance video from a nearby home showed Armstrong’s Jeep driving around the apartment and parking in an alley shortly before Wilson was killed.
Defense Attorney Rick Cofer told the jury that Armstrong had been “caught in a nightmare of circumstantial evidence.”
The 35-year-old was questioned by police just three days after the killing but once freed, she fled to Costa Rica leading the authorities on an intensive manhunt.
During the trial the court heard that she had made efforts to disguise her identity with dyed hair and plastic surgery.
Armstrong was brought back to the United States and charged with first-degree murder. She pleaded not guilty in July 2022 and has been held at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Texas on a $3.5m bond.
On 11 October 2023, Armstrong attempted to escape for a second time during a scheduled to attend a medical appointment which required transport to a physician. As she left the facility with a corrections office she took off running.
In a video that captured the incident, and shown at court, she could be seen running across a yard toward a brown wooden fence. The corrections officer pursues, but slips and falls in the grass.
The court heard how Wilson, a competitive gravel and mountain bike racer from Vermont, had been found dead her friend’s Austin, Texas apartment.
On the day of her murder she had arranged to meet fellow pro-cyclist Mr Strickland, with whom she had an on-again, off-again relationship with when he and his then-girlfriend Armstrong were on a hiatus.
In evidence shown at court, three gunshots and a woman’s scream could be heard.