AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas jury on Friday sentenced a woman to 90 years in prison for the May 2022 shooting death of rising professional cyclist Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson in a case that sent investigators on a 43-day international search for the killer.
Jurors deliberated for just over three hours before delivering the sentence for Kaitlin Armstrong, who investigators say tracked Wilson to the apartment where she was staying and shot her three times. They took only two hours on Thursday to convict her of murder.
“As a family we believe justice has been served,” Eric Wilson, the victim’s father, said after the sentencing. “There really are no winners here. This is not a time for celebration, but a time for prayer. A time to pray for our family, our friends, and the Armstrong family and their friends.”
He added that while the family’s lives have changed forever, “with this challenging ordeal now behind us, we are ready to move forward and continue our healing.”
“And we will do this with Moriah’s strong, determined, gentle and kind spirit,” Wilson said.
Prosecutors said Armstrong gunned down the 25-year-old Anna Wilson in a jealous rage. The cyclist had briefly dated Armstrong’s boyfriend several months earlier, and went swimming and to a meal with him the day she was killed.
Armstrong’s defense attorneys had urged the jury to consider something less than life in prison. Under current Texas law, Armstrong, 35, will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
“The loss of Moriah Wilson is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the Wilson family and the family of our client Kaitlin Armstrong,” defense attorney Rick Cofer said.
After Armstrong was sentenced, sobs could be heard coming from the area of the courtroom where her family sat. Her father stood to look at her, and wiped tears from his eyes.
Members of Wilson’s family exchanged hugs with each other following the jury’s announcement and her mother, Karen Wilson, delivered a statement directly to Armstrong.
“When you shot Moriah in the heart, you shot me in the heart … all the people who loved her, pierced their hearts,” she said, looking at Armstrong as she left the witness stand. Armstrong did not appear to return her gaze.
A Vermont native and former alpine skier at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Anna Wilson was an emerging star in pro gravel and mountain bike racing. She was visiting Austin ahead of a race in Texas, where she was among the favorites to win.
Armstrong tracked Wilson to the apartment where she was staying through a fitness app and shot her three times, twice in the head and once through the heart, investigators said.
“I would have done anything to stand in the way of that bullet,” Karen Wilson told jurors on Thursday at the start of the punishment phase of the trial. “She did not deserve a death like that.”
Wilson added that “from the day she was born, she (Anna Wilson) had a force in her.”
“She lived as if every day was her last day. And she lived it so fully. She never wasted any time. … It’s as if she knew her life would be short.”
Armstrong did not testify on her own behalf during the trial.
Caitlin Cash, the friend who found Wilson’s body and tried to perform CPR, told jurors she had texted Wilson’s mother earlier that day with a photo of her starting a bike ride with a note: “Your girl is in safe hands here in Austin.”
“I felt a lot of guilt not being able to protect her,” Cash said. “I fought for her with everything I had.”
Armstrong’s younger sister Christine had told jurors that her older sister “is not a bad person.”
“She’s such a special person,” Christine Armstrong said before looking at Kaitlin Armstrong. “I’ve always looked up to you. … She’s always cared for other people.”
Kaitlin Armstrong’s Jeep was seen near the apartment where Wilson was staying around the time she was shot and bullet casings found near Wilson’s body matched a gun Armstrong owned. Armstrong briefly met with police before selling her vehicle and using her sister’s passport to fly to Costa Rica.
She spent more than $6,000 on a nose job there and changed the color and style of her hair to evade authorities before she was arrested at a beachside hostel, investigators said.
Armstrong again tried to escape authorities during an Oct. 11 medical appointment outside of jail. She faces a separate felony escape charge.