The Murder of Moriah Wilson
How did one of the best young bike racers in the country wind up dead in an Austin apartment? Our writer unravels the tangled story of a crime that shocked the world.
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One: Weapons Handling
Colin Strickland believed that every woman should own a gun. It was a feminist conviction of a sort. He would argue that, as a dude—a tall, tan, strapping dude—he enjoyed a freedom that many women don’t. He could go most places and do most things without feeling threatened. He rode his bike on desolate gravel roads, then parked his truck wherever he liked and slept inside a Spartan trailer he hauled behind him. As a professional bike racer, he lived a remarkably carefree life, close to the best he could have imagined for himself. But he was aware of his male privilege, too.
Strickland’s girlfriend, Kaitlin Armstrong, called him one night in the summer of 2020, sobbing and panicked. A belligerent man—maybe intoxicated, maybe suffering some kind of mental breakdown, maybe both—kept banging on the door of her Austin, Texas, apartment. The guy eventually went away, but the incident terrified her. Another time, she was accosted by an angry man in a grocery store parking lot. Now and then, creeps followed her while she rode on bike paths and made her feel unsafe. Strickland could only imagine how these incidents felt to Armstrong, a lithe yoga instructor with auburn hair that fell across her shoulders. He knew that men commit nearly 80 percent of violent crime in the U.S., and he wondered: Why should a woman spend her life living in fear? Maybe a gun would make Kaitlin feel empowered, more independent, free to live the way she chose.
It’s easy to buy a weapon in Texas. So one day around the beginning of 2022, Strickland and Armstrong rode their bikes to McBride’s, a family-owned gun shop near the University of Texas. Armstrong picked out a 9mm SIG Sauer P365 pistol and held it up to get a feel for its weight. Strickland picked out a handgun, too. As a kid, he’d lived in the rural Hill Country west of Austin, an area with a lot of firearms. But his family didn’t own guns, and he’d fired a shotgun maybe once in his life. The motivation to buy one now came from his fascination with machines; he was drawn to the engineering and construction.
In their relationship, Armstrong, who’d once worked in finance, managed the money, while Strickland often paid for things. After providing the background information required by federal law for licensed gun dealers, he asked the salesperson if they needed to have Armstrong’s information, too. “No,” he was told. “In the state of Texas, you can gift someone a gun.”
Strickland paid for the pistols and gave one to Armstrong. They had also acquired two boxes of ammunition, one for practice and another marked “9mm JAG,” a bullet designed to break apart on impact and cause additional harm inside the body—increasing the chances that it would kill its intended target.