AUSTIN (KXAN) – After eight days of calling witnesses, state prosecutors rested their case against murder suspect Kaitlin Armstrong Wednesday morning.
Police believe Armstrong shot and killed pro cyclist “Mo” Wilson on May 11, 2022 at an east Austin apartment. Wilson was in town for a nearby gravel race and staying with a friend.
Once defense attorneys finished questioning their witnesses, the jury was excused – and Armstrong and her attorneys approached the judge. At that point, Judge Brenda Kennedy asked Armstrong if she wished to testify and she indicated she did not.
State prosecutors called an additional witness after that – a DNA expert.
The State’s final witness Tuesday was Pamela Mazak, an intelligence analyst with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. She showed the jury an interactive timeline of events of the day Wilson died by tracking location data on Wilson’s and Armstrong’s phones, as well as the phone of Colin Strickland – Armstrong’s then-boyfriend and a friend of Wilson’s.
Follow live courtroom updates from KXAN’s Brianna Hollis on the social media platform “X” at the link below:
KAITLIN ARMSTRONG DAY 9. Good morning from the courthouse. Cameras are back in full force as we’re hearing the State will rest today, and closing arguments COULD begin as early as this afternoon. Cams can’t go inside, but I’ll be there posting live updates to this thread. pic.twitter.com/c5XevmQgJa— Brianna Hollis (@BriHollisNEWS) November 15, 2023
Records show Wilson and Strickland went to Deep Eddy Pool and Pool Burger in the hours before Wilson was shot. Mazak’s report also included location data from the infotainment center in Armstrong’s Jeep. Throughout the report, she displayed other evidence – like text messages, receipts and surveillance video – that she said corroborated the location data.
That data placed Armstrong’s Jeep at the scene of the crime and Strickland almost home at the time of the shooting, Mazak explained. Her report also showed Armstrong’s Jeep circling the block of the apartment Wilson died in the hours before.
Defense attorneys have questioned witnesses about the validity and accuracy of the phone, GPS and DNA data used in this case. They also addressed what they suggested were issues or discrepancies in the investigation process and asked questions suggesting the possibility of Strickland’s involvement.
Strickland’s testimony early on in the trial matched the timeline of events in Mazak’s report. While on the stand, prosecutors asked him if he killed Wilson. He said no.
During opening statements, the Defense made the argument that while surveillance video shows Armstrong’s Jeep at the murder scene, cameras never captured Armstrong herself.
Defense’s calls forensic examiners, APD officer
Erin LaGrone, a senior latent print examiner with the Austin Forensic Science Department, took the stand first for the Defense Wednesday. She said she examined prints extracted from the front door and window of the east Austin apartment where Wilson died, as well as prints lifted from Wilson’s bicycle, which was found near the murder scene.
Previous witnesses testified that Armstrong’s DNA was found on that bicycle. DNA is gathered differently than prints are. Crime scene analysts who testified previously said they swab for DNA on textured surfaces and lift for prints on smooth surfaces.
LaGrone said that most of the prints lifted from the bicycle and door-area did not have conclusive matches to Armstrong.
Matt Quartaro, a forensic DNA consultant, also testified. He reviewed the DNA details of this case. The Defense established him as an expert witness. Attorneys asked him about transfer DNA. Quartaro said people shed their DNA at different rates, meaning some people leave behind more DNA than others.
The Defense asked Quartaro if it was possible for someone’s DNA to be somewhere he or she never touched. Quartaro said “yes.” During cross examination, the State asked if it was also possible for Armstrong’s DNA to be on Wilson’s bicycle because she touched the bicycle. He also responded “yes” to that question.
Defense attorneys also questioned one of the police officers who picked Armstrong up on a misdemeanor warrant — unrelated to this case — on May 12, Officer Gordon Niels.
Niels said Armstrong seemed “indifferent” when police picked her up and told her about the warrant. Shortly after they arrived at police headquarters, detectives discovered a mismatched birthdate on the warrant, and at that point, the detective sitting with Armstrong in the interview room told Armstrong she was free to go. That detective, Katy Conner, also told Armstrong that Strickland had brought her name up while talking to detectives about Wilson’s murder, and proceeded to ask Armstrong some questions related to that.
Niels said he knew the warrant he picked Armstrong up for was not a murder warrant, but didn’t know what it was for. To his knowledge, there was no discussion with Armstrong ahead of time that she may be asked about Wilson’s death.
Defense calls Colin Strickland back
Strickland first testified on Nov. 3 when prosecutors called him as one of their witnesses.
Armstrong’s attorneys called him back to the stand Wednesday as their last of five witnesses. Much of that discussion centered around a May 17 meeting Strickland had with police about vandalism at his and Armstrong’s home a few days prior.
May 17 was also the date police issued an arrest warrant for Armstrong in connection with Wilson’s murder. Records show by that date, Armstrong had left Texas.
When prosecutors questioned Strickland initially, they asked him directly if he killed Wilson. Strickland said no.