Where do we begin? One of the rising stars of gravel and endurance mountain bike racing – a friend, a daughter, an athlete who raced for the love of it – was murdered May 11 in Austin, Texas. 25-year-old Moriah "Mo" Wilson was traveling to race the Gravel Locos 150-mile race in Hico, Texas, where she was a favorite for the win until a vicious shooting ended her life and sent the off-road cycling community into a stunned, heartbroken unrest.
The Austin Police Department responded to a call the night of May 11 and found Mo Wilson dead from gunshot wounds in her friend's house, where she was staying. Since her killing, the details have only become more horrifying: police have issued an arrest warrant for Kaitlin Armstrong, the partner of high-profile gravel racer Colin Strickland, with whom Mo reportedly had a brief romantic relationship last fall during a time when Strickland and Armstrong had separated. In a statement released last week, Strickland said he and Mo remained close but not romantically involved after he and Armstrong reconciled. Text messages and statements from others included in the police affidavit
appear to contradict what Strickland said, suggesting that he continued his romantic involvement with Wilson after reconciling with Armstrong.
The evening of May 11, Wilson went for an evening swim with Strickland, according to the affidavit. Soon after Strickland dropped Mo off at her friend's house for the night, Armstrong is alleged to have visited the house and shot Mo, whose friend returned later that night to find her shot multiple times with a 9mm handgun. She was pronounced dead soon after police arrived.
Now, Armstrong is on the run and authorities have issued an arrest warrant for first-degree murder.Mo Wilson
While it's hard not to focus on the horrific end of Moriah Wilson's life, there was so much vitality packed into the 25 years that preceded the May 11 events.
The former ski racer and longtime recreational rider only started to make a mark on the professional racing scene in the last year, but while just a year ago she was considered a dark horse
, she's quickly become known as the winningest woman in the current American gravel scene, and was recently highlighted in an interview
with our sister site VeloNews published May 11, just hours before her death.
Raised in northeastern Vermont near the Kingdom Trails, Wilson told Betsy Welch of VeloNews, she learned to ride at an early age with her parents and brother. Her father was a professional ski racer, and the natural path for Mo was to follow in his footsteps, attending Burke Mountain Academy, a private college-prep school with a focus on training elite ski racing athletes, before joining the Dartmouth College Ski Team, one of the top Division 1 collegiate ski teams in the US, playing competitive soccer and earning a degree in engineering along the way
. During her competitive ski career, Wilson used mountain and gravel bikes for cross-training, injury recovery, and fun with her family and friends. One coach joked over the years that she should pursue bike racing once she was done ski racing, she said, because she’d probably be pretty good at it.
As it turns out, she was.
Throughout the 2021 and early 2022 seasons, Wilson was on a tear, winning many – if not most – of the US's biggest high-mileage events. Last fall, she placed second at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and won Big Sugar before coming back even stronger this spring to take wins at Rock Cobbler, the Huffmaster Hopper, the Shasta Gravel Hugger, the Belgian Waffle Ride (which she won by 25 minutes), and the Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k. For American gravel racers, the spring season builds up to the Unbound Gravel 200 mile race, which is scheduled for June 4 and where fans have looked forward to watching a showdown between Wilson and last year's winner, Lauren de Crescenzo.
On her quick rise to the top, Wilson said, "I work really hard and even though I haven’t been in the sport for long, my experience as a ski racer and background in the sport recreationally have converged. So that's been cool because it's actually like, ok this has been many, many years and hours of being coached and doing something recreationally."
Compared to last season when Wilson had minimal support and, unlike most of her fellow top racers, was working a full-time job at Specialized, Wilson had professional support for 2022 – including from Specialized – and, just last month, gave notice that she’d be leaving her demand planner role to train full-time. Her last day of work was set for June 3, the day before Unbound.
As she moved into racing full-time, she recently started a newsletter
that included race reflections, interviews with industry figures, and vignettes that painted her as a thoughtful, insightful person with a unique balance of humility and quiet confidence. Her obituary
describes her as a lover of Taco Tuesdays, Italy, and Settlers of Catan, and as a bighearted rider who recently moved back to her home state with the vision to "create a local community space in East Burke, Vt. where bikers could gather throughout the day, feel welcome, share a good cup of coffee and a bite of locally sourced food."
In short, Wilson and those around her anticipated a lifetime's worth of on- and off-bike experiences
, and her too-short time leaves a million "what if" questions behind.
She's remembered by the Gravel Locos race founder Fabian Serralta
as a "role model, a shy compassionate person, a spirited tactical racer and a competitor that genuinely cared about those competing against [her]."Kaitlin Armstrong
The evidence that ties Kaitlin Armstrong to the crime is significant. Wilson returned to her friend's house at 8:36 pm the evening she was killed, according to her friend's electronic keypad records, and at 8:37, a neighbor's surveillance camera caught what appeared to be Armstrong's vehicle slowing and stopping outside of the residence where Wilson was killed.
In investigating the case and searching Strickland's and Armstrong's home, police discovered Armstrong had an outstanding, unrelated misdemeanor warrant for her arrest, so she was brought to the police station and interviewed by a detective. Soon after, it was discovered that the arrest warrant was not valid due to a discrepancy in her listed birthdate
in police records, and Armstrong was declared free to leave. During her brief interview while she was at the station, Armstrong did not deny that she was outside the residence where Wilson was killed, and nodded in agreement with the statement "maybe you were upset and just in the area," according to the affidavit.
Police found two handguns at Strickland's and Armstrong's residence, which Strickland told police he purchased – one for himself and one for Armstrong – between December 2021 and January 2022. Forensic evidence suggests "significant potential" that it was Armstrong's firearm that killed Wilson.
An anonymous friend of Wilson's, identified in the affidavit as "Jane Doe," told detectives that Wilson and Strickland had been in an "on again, off again" entanglement that began last fall, and that Armstrong had repeatedly and aggressively contacted Wilson to tell her to stay away from Strickland until Wilson blocked Armstrong's number.
A second anonymous caller told the investigators that in January 2022, Armstrong had discovered that Strickland and Wilson were still romantically involved and had become so angry that she said she wanted to kill Wilson. The caller refused to be identified, but police corroborated enough details to believe the input was credible.
Two days after the crime, Strickland said, was the last time he saw his girlfriend. Armstrong has been on the run ever since, and her whereabouts have been unknown since then. On Wednesday, police released video that appears to show Armstrong boarding a flight from Austin to New York May 14. The warrant for her arrest was issued May 17, and she remains at large.Update 6/19/2022:
Police now say Armstrong was last seen in New Jersey on May 18. She remains at large, and the investigation has been upgraded to "major case status." US Marshals are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to her arrest. She was also allegedly spotted at a campsite in upstate New York, about 2.5 hours from the Newark Liberty Internation Airport.Update 6/30/2022:
Armstrong has been captured in Costa Rica. She is currently in police custody and will be deported to the United States, where she will be charged with first-degree murder. She reportedly boarded a flight May 18 from Newark, New Jersey, to San Jose, Costa Rica, using a fraudulent passport, and is said to have undergone plastic surgery. Read more on VeloNews
And there, in the middle between the victim and her alleged killer, is Colin Strickland. One of the top US gravel racers and a Red Bull athlete, Strickland is central to the story not only because a woman appears to have killed another because of his relationships, but because most of the public details about the story have come from Strickland's police interview, detailed in the affidavit.
Strickland told investigators that he and Wilson had been briefly romantically involved last fall, during a time when he and Armstrong had been broken up for one or two weeks. He said his relationship with Wilson only lasted about a week and faded out, though others say otherwise. Text messages found on Wilson's phone and included in the affidavit suggest that as recently as January, Wilson believed she and Strickland were romantically involved, at least in some capacity.
The affidavit also details how Strickland changed Wilson's name in his phone and how, after dropping Wilson off the night of her death, he texted Armstrong and lied about his whereabouts to hide that he had spent the evening with Wilson.
As details around the crime began to surface, Strickland released a statement to Austin-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski expressing his regret and torture he feels about his "proximity to this horrible crime."
In his statement, Strickland also attempted to clarify the details reported about his relationship with Wilson, though his words seem to contradict the timeline he told investigators about their relationship and what multiple sources have said.
Strickland's proximity to the murder has affected him professionally too. Former sponsors Specialized, Enve, and Rapha have all cut ties with the rider, and Allied Cycle Works has suggested in a comment to VeloNews that it will do the same: "Given the circumstances, Colin Strickland is not expected to represent Allied at future races," the brand said. His sponsor Red Bull has declined to share its plans, calling the situation "a matter for the authorities."
The tumult following Wilson's death transformed the Gravel Locos race weekend from a pre-Unbound shakedown to a mournful remembrance ride. A statement from Wilson's family was read before the race began, and every rider who toed the start line seems to have taken it to heart:
VeloNews shared a poignant gallery
from the event. The grief shared among those who knew Wilson is beyond heavy, as is the sense of horrific finality of such an abrupt and unjust killing.
Wilson's family has started a GoFundMe campaign
to support "community organizations that help youth find self-confidence, strength, and joy through biking, skiing, and other activities that Moriah was passionate about," the campaign description states. Wilson's brother has also shared links to support the Dartmouth
and Burke Mountain Academy
ski programs in lieu of flower donations.
We at Pinkbike offer our condolences to Wilson's family, her friends, and the greater cycling community for this unfathomable loss.