A rising 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, U.S. Marshals are helping the 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. The police said Ms. Wilson had also been romantically involved with Mr. Strickland.
On the night of May 11, a friend returned to her home in Austin where Ms. Wilson had been staying, found Ms. Wilson bleeding and unconscious and called 911, the police said.
Ms. Wilson, who was known as Mo, was pronounced dead shortly after, the police said. An initial investigation revealed that someone had shot Ms. Wilson multiple times inside the home and that the shooting did not appear to be random.
On the night she was killed, Ms. Wilson and Mr. 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 the police, Mr. Strickland said he had dropped Ms. Wilson off at her friend’s house and did not go inside. He told the police that he had been in a romantic relationship with Ms. Wilson in October during a one- or two-week break from his roughly three-year relationship with Ms. Armstrong, according to the affidavit.
In December or January, Mr. Strickland purchased two 9-millimeter handguns, one for himself and one for Ms. Armstrong, the affidavit said. A police analysis of Ms. Armstrong’s gun, which was recovered at Mr. Strickland’s home, revealed that it had “significant” potential to be the same as the one used to kill Ms. Wilson, the affidavit said.
A vehicle similar to Ms. Armstrong’s, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was seen in front of the Austin home where Ms. Wilson was staying an hour before the police responded to her friend’s 911 call, the affidavit said. Ms. Armstrong did not explain why her vehicle was seen near the scene of the shooting, the police said.
The day after Ms. Wilson was found dead, the police took Ms. Armstrong into custody on an unspecified misdemeanor warrant but were then informed that the warrant was not valid and told Ms. Armstrong she could leave if she wanted to, the affidavit said.
The Austin police did not immediately respond to messages seeking further comment. Mr. Strickland and his sponsor, Red Bull, did not respond to email requests for comment. Ms. Armstrong could not be reached.
The affidavit said the police had received a tip from an anonymous caller. The caller said Ms. Armstrong had said in January that she wanted to kill Ms. Wilson after learning that Mr. Strickland was in a romantic relationship with Ms. Wilson while he was dating Ms. Armstrong.
Mr. Strickland said he had not been in contact with Ms. 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,” Mr. Strickland said in a statement to The American-Statesman. “I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy.”
Mr. Strickland said that he had a brief romantic relationship with Ms. Wilson in the fall “that spanned a week or so,” then reconciled with Ms. Armstrong. He said that he and Ms. 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 Ms. 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,” Mr. Strickland said in his statement. “I am deeply grieving her loss.”
In an interview in May with VeloNews, a competitive cycling magazine, Ms. Wilson said she had recently quit her job with the bike company Specialized to focus on cycling full time. VeloNews said that Ms. Wilson had won 10 off-road races this year.
Cycling publications described Ms. Wilson as a rising star in the off-road racing world who had racked up impressive performances lately, including winning an 80-kilometer race in April at the Sea Otter Classic, a cycling festival in Monterey, Calif.
Ms. Wilson, a newcomer to gravel racing, had some “pretty significant results” last year but became a well-known name in the sport after a series of high-profile wins this year, said Betsy Welch, a journalist at VeloNews.
“That’s one reason why I covered her so much: She just kept winning all these races, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is one to watch,’” she said. “It’s a small sport in terms of the number of pros who do it for a living. She immediately stood out.”
Ms. Wilson’s 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 Ms. Wilson.
Ms. Wilson had traveled to Texas to compete in Gravel Locos, a 150-mile race in Hico, about 135 miles north of Austin. The winner of the race, Marisa Vandersteen Boaz, said on Instagram that she wished Ms. Wilson could have won it.
Ms. Boaz said she had not known Ms. 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,” Ms. Boaz wrote.
Vimal Patel contributed reporting.