By JIM VERTUNO
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A woman accused of killing professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson as a romantic rival pleaded not guilty to a murder charge on Wednesday, as her lawyers pressed for a quick trial that the judge then scheduled to start in late October.
Wilson, 25, was found shot to death dead May 11. Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, fled the country after her initial interviews with investigators, prompting a 43-day manhunt that ended with her arrest at a beachside hostel in Costa Rica on June 29.
Authorities said she had tried to change her appearance and used several aliases as she moved around Costa Rica while trying to set herself up as a yoga instructor in that country.
A competitive gravel and mountain bike racer and Vermont native known as “Mo,” Wilson had been in Austin for a race she was among the favorites to win. Police have said Wilson had previously dated Armstrong’s boyfriend, cyclist Colin Strickland, who they say has cooperated with investigators and is not a suspect.
According to investigators, Armstrong’s SUV was seen on surveillance video outside the home where Wilson was killed. Armstrong faces up to 99 years in prison if she’s convicted. She is being held on $3.5 million bond.
Prosecutors questioned whether the quick trial setting amounted to a “privilege” for Armstrong, as it would put her case in front of other murder trials that have waited for two years or longer because of pandemic slowdowns. They also noted that investigators are still gathering evidence that prosecutors and defense attorneys have yet to receive.
“If they chose to indict without evidence, that’s the district attorney’s problem,” Armstrong’s attorney, Rick Cofer, told District Judge Brenda Kennedy before she granted the request to set a trial date and scheduled it to begin Oct. 24.
After the brief court hearing, Cofer suggested that Armstrong’s defense will challenge the evidence gathering and conduct by Austin police investigators, and whether they didn’t follow leads that could have led to a different suspect.
“Ms. Armstrong wants her day in court,” Cofer said, without taking questions. “Simply put, there is a lot more to this story that has yet been heard.”
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