Austin, Texas – A woman accused of murdering professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson as a romantic rival pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder on Wednesday as her attorneys sought a speedy trial, which a judge had scheduled to begin in late October.
Wilson, 25, was found shot to death on May 11. Caitlin Armstrong, 34, fled the country after initial conversations with investigators, sparking a 43-day manhunt that ended with her arrest at a beach hostel in Costa Rica on June 29.
Authorities said she tried to change her appearance and used several aliases as she moved around Costa Rica in an attempt to become a yoga instructor in the country.
A competitive gravel and mountain bike rider and Vermont native known as “Moe,” Wilson was in Austin for the race in which she was one of the favorites to win. Police said Wilson had previously dated Armstrong’s boyfriend, cyclist Colin Strickland, who they said was cooperating with the investigation and is not a suspect.
According to investigators, Armstrong’s SUV was seen on surveillance video near the home where Wilson was killed. Armstrong faces up to 99 years in prison if convicted. She is being held on $3.5 million bail.
Prosecutors have questioned whether a speedy trial is a “privilege” for Armstrong because it would put her case ahead of other murder trials that have been waiting for two years or more because of the pandemic slowdown. They also noted that investigators continue to collect evidence that the prosecutor’s office and defense attorneys have not yet received.
“If they choose to charge without evidence, that’s a district attorney’s problem,” Armstrong’s attorney, Rick Coffer, told District Judge Brenda Kennedy before she granted a request for a trial date and set it for Oct. 24.
After a brief court hearing, Coffer suggested that Armstrong’s defense would challenge the collection of evidence and the actions of Austin police investigators, and that they did not follow up on leads that could have led to another suspect.
“Ms. Armstrong wants her day in court,” Cofer said without answering questions. “Simply put, there’s a lot more to this story that hasn’t been heard yet.”
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