A rising US cycling star who was visiting Texas for a competition was found shot dead in Austin this month, rattling the tight-knit community of off-road biking and racing.
Investigators began to piece together a narrative of that night with surveillance video, a remorseful interview with another professional cyclist she had been seeing and, eventually, ballistics. Now, US Marshals are helping police look for a woman who has been identified as a suspect in the death of Anna Moriah Wilson, 25.
The suspect, Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, 34, was dating Colin Strickland, 35, another star gravel cyclist, a discipline that blends mountain biking and road cycling. Police said Wilson had also been romantically involved with Strickland.
On the night of May 11, a friend returned to her home in Austin where Wilson had been staying, found Wilson bleeding and unconscious and called emergency services, police said.
Wilson, who was known as Mo, was pronounced dead shortly after, police said. An initial investigation revealed that someone had shot Wilson multiple times inside the home and that the shooting did not appear to be random.
On the night she was killed, Wilson and Strickland had together visited the Deep Eddy pool in Austin, according to a police affidavit posted by the Austin American-Statesman.
In an interview with police, Strickland said he had dropped Wilson off at her friend's house and did not go inside. He told police he had been in a romantic relationship with Wilson in October during a one- or two-week break from his roughly three-year relationship with Armstrong, according to the affidavit.
In December or January, Strickland purchased two handguns, one for himself and one for Armstrong, the affidavit said. A police analysis of Armstrong's gun, which was recovered at Strickland's home, revealed that it had "significant" potential to be the same as the one used to kill Wilson, the affidavit said.
A vehicle similar to Armstrong's, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was seen in front of the Austin home where Wilson was staying an hour before the police responded to her friend's emergency call, the affidavit said. Armstrong did not explain why her vehicle was seen near the scene of the shooting, police said.
The day after Wilson was found dead, police took Armstrong into custody on an unspecified misdemeanour warrant but were then informed that the warrant was not valid and told Armstrong she could leave if she wanted to, the affidavit said.
Austin police did not immediately respond to messages seeking further comment. Strickland and his sponsor, Red Bull, did not respond to email requests for comment. Armstrong could not be reached.
The affidavit said police had received a tip from an anonymous caller. The caller said Armstrong had said in January that she wanted to kill Wilson after learning that Strickland was in a romantic relationship with Wilson while he was dating Armstrong.
Strickland said he had not been in contact with Armstrong since May 13, according to the affidavit.
"There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime," Strickland said in a statement to the American-Statesman. "I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy."
Strickland said he had a brief romantic relationship with Wilson "that spanned a week or so", then reconciled with Armstrong. He said he and Wilson had not been in a romantic relationship after that but were in a platonic and professional relationship and would often see each other at cycling events.
He said Wilson was "the best female cyclist in the United States and possibly the world", according to the affidavit.
"Moriah and I were both leaders in this lonely, niche sport of cycling, and I admired her greatly and considered her a close friend," Strickland said in his statement. "I am deeply grieving her loss."
In an interview in May with VeloNews, a competitive cycling magazine, Wilson said she had recently quit her job with the bike company Specialized to focus on cycling full time. VeloNews said Wilson had won 10 off-road races this year.
Cycling publications described Wilson as a rising star in the off-road racing world who had racked up impressive performances lately, including winning an 80-kilometre race in April at the Sea Otter Classic, a cycling festival in Monterey, California.
Her death rattled the mountain biking and gravel racing world, and tributes to her were posted online.
Rebecca Rusch, a professional cyclist, said on Instagram that there "was a bubble of positivity and joy" around Wilson.
Wilson had traveled to Texas to compete in Gravel Locos, a 240km race in Hico, about 215km north of Austin. The winner of the race, Marisa Vandersteen Boaz, said on Instagram that she wished Wilson could have won it.
Boaz said she had not known Wilson personally but had been inspired by her.
"I know everyone participating gave it their all and I think that is what Mo would have wanted," Boaz wrote.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Written by: Amanda Holpuch
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