A life lost, a community reeling: Killing of Vermont cycling star in Texas leaves family, friends, and athletes in shock
AUSTIN, Texas — They were two of the biggest stars in their fast-growing sport. Colin Strickland was the elder statesman and Moriah “Mo” Wilson the next big thing.
They both embodied the grass-roots, laid-back ethos of gravel racing — a type of cycling that combines features of road racing and mountain biking, and allows pros and amateurs to toe start lines side by side. And then earlier this month their lives collided, in a rental apartment above a garage in Austin, leaving Wilson dead and everyone who knew them reeling.
Police allege that Wilson, 25, was murdered here on May 11 by the girlfriend of Strickland, 35. Authorities allege that the girlfriend, Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, killed Wilson with three shots from a 9mm handgun minutes after Wilson joined Strickland for a swim and dinner at a local hamburger restaurant. Police obtained a warrant for Armstrong’s arrest last week, but she was still at large Sunday.
The crime has left athletes, family, and friends grieving in Austin, in Wilson’s native Vermont, and across the country on the national bike racing scene.
“Austin is a small town and the cycling community is a small, tight-knit world within that,” said Colm Whelan, a local cyclist. ”People are devastated.”
On Saturday at The Meteor — a bike shop and hangout that serves as the hub of Austin’s cycling scene — women and men with carbon-fiber bikes rolled in after long rides through the surrounding hills. Most weekends, local cyclists said, Meteor’s beer garden becomes the venue for a post-ride, endorphin-fueled party.
But lately, since Wilson’s killing, said local cyclist Collin Shaughnessy while finishing a post-ride meal, the atmosphere has been “solemn.”
Inside the shop, two elite racers wearing their team’s fluorescent-colored kit declined to speak at any length. “We’re too close to it,” one said.
Another local cyclist, who like many others did not want to be named, said he had shared post-ride beers with Armstrong, a competitive amateur cyclist, at The Meteor several times and couldn’t account for how she could be tied to a murder.
“She just seemed normal, mellow, really smart,” he said.
The day of the killing, Armstrong stopped at The Meteor, which sponsors Strickland, at the start of a morning ride, according to a GPS track uploaded to the cycling social media site Strava. Twelve hours later, a black Jeep with a bike rack that matched the appearance of Armstrong’s vehicle was in the vicinity of the East Austin apartment where Wilson, who lived in California, was staying ahead of a weekend race in Hico, Texas, according to a timeline of the day’s events established by a Globe review of law enforcement records. Austin police believe Armstrong was sitting in the Jeep’s driver seat.
Around 8:30 p.m., Strickland, riding his BMW motorcycle, dropped off Wilson after a swim and dinner at a local burger joint. At 8:36, Strickland texted Armstrong.”Hey! Are you out? I went to drop some flowers for [a friend] at her son’s house up north and my phone died,” he wrote, according to a police affidavit.
At 8:37, the black Jeep pulled up to the apartment, according to security camera footage described in the law enforcement records. A little more than an hour later, a neighbor, Jonathan Horstmann, heard sirens and approached one of the police officers congregating near the apartment.
”It’s a heinous crime scene. Something nasty happened back there,” the officer told him, according to a text message Horstmann sent to a friend immediately after the exchange.
Information about the killing spread through the Austin cycling community in waves. First came the shock that Wilson was dead. Then, word spread that Armstrong and Strickland were connected to the case. According to police interviews with Strickland and a friend of Wilson’s, Strickland and Wilson had a romantic relationship last fall when Strickland and Armstrong were briefly separated.
Strickland has not been accused of any crime.
Numerous cyclists recounted finding their friends stunned as bits of information emerged. Whelan stopped by a local shop the day the news broke that an arrest warrant had been issued for Armstrong. An employee asked if he’d heard the news and “she was just actually shocked,” he said.
An Austin bike mechanic — who said he is a friend of Strickland’s and of the woman who was hosting Wilson and found her body — said the murder “is affecting the community intensely.”
Strickland, he said, was a “pillar” of the cycling scene who “has always been really open and supportive of people coming into the community.”
It’s an assessment that many echoed. “A lot of elite racers can be really pretentious,” one local racer said, “but Colin’s always friendly.”
The sport that made Strickland and Wilson stars, gravel racing, defines itself in contrast to the exclusive, tradition-bound, and performance enhancing drug-tainted world of European road racing. Wilson and Strickland were the perfect ambassadors.
Google Nest tips you need to try to make your home life so much easier
The latest generation Google Nest smart speakers will enhance your daily routine and there are a number of tips you can use to get the best from Google Assistant. With a Google smart speaker you can l...
East Indians must write family life stories
Once again Indian Arrival Day has come with its flurry of speeches and cultural expositions celebrating the ancestral heritage, remembering the good old days which the large majority of us never exper...