Dateline NBC investigates the Moriah Wilson murder, retracing her last hours before landing on a "person of interest"
(Editor's note: this is part one of a two part Austonia series. Read Part Two here.)
Lester Holt's Dateline NBC has kicked off its new season with a two hour episode, The Last Ride, examining the Austin shooting death of pro cyclist Moriah "Mo" Wilson on May 11.
Hosted by Keith Morrison, NBC brings considerable investigative resources, well beyond the resources and capabilities of local Austin media. They sent producers and crews to Austin, New York, and Costa Rica, interviewing people related to the case and uncovering more information. They collected numerous photos and archival videos. They located and reviewed court documents. And they hired a consulting detective to help analyze evidence.
Woven throughout the segment are on-camera insights from Austin American-Statesman reporter Ryan Autullo, who covered the story for the paper.
Moriah "Mo" Wilson
Moriah "Mo" Wilson
Wilson is portrayed as a "bright young star," a ski racer from Vermont who moved to California and switched to racing bikes, rapidly rising to the top of gravel racing's pro ranks. Her rise was so sudden that despite being immensely popular among the cycling community, the racers did not know much about her.
Mo Wilson had no real ties to Austin. She was here preparing for a race, staying with a female friend in an alley apartment over a South Austin garage.
On the second night of her Austin trip, her friend came home to find Moriah on the floor, bleeding, with multiple gunshot wounds. The friend called 911 and administered CPR, but was unable to save Moriah.
Police found 9mm shell casing on the apartment floor, and discovered that Wilson's very expensive bike was missing. It was soon found, hidden in nearby bushes.
A witness, the property landlord who was working inside the garage at the time, said he opened the garage door to exit and heard someone running down the exterior stairs from the apartment above. As he left the garage, he said in a statement that he thought he saw someone riding a bicycle down the alley, away from the scene. He did not mention hearing any gunshots.
Authorities focused their attention, initially, on Austin pro cyclist Colin Strickland, at that time a Red Bull sponsored athlete. Police were told that Strickland and Wilson had spent the early evening together, riding on his motorcycle to swim at Deep Eddy Pool and eating dinner afterward at nearby Pool Burger.
The two were well acquainted. A friend said that Mo Wilson and Colin Strickland had met and "hit it off" in July 2021, at a San Diego bike race called the Belgian Waffle Ride.
A few months later, in October, Moriah Wilson visited Austin, staying with the same friend in the same apartment where she died. On that visit, according to NBC, Wilson and Strickland had a "fling."
Not clear, according to NBC, is whether Wilson knew that Strickland was in a long term relationship with Austin real estate agent and amateur rider Kaitlin Armstrong (no relation to cyclist Lance Armstrong).
A few months later, at a race in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Strickland was there with Armstrong by his side. Wilson was confused, and NBC reports that she texted Strickland for clarification, but didn't get it. His vague responses to Wilson's questions, according to NBC, did not directly address the extent of his relationship with Kaitlin Armstrong.
The day after Wilson's murder, NBC reports that Strickland voluntarily spoke at length with police, providing what NBC characterizes as a "precise, to-the-minute" account of their time together on the previous evening.
NBC says there was support for Strickland's timeline from a variety of electronic sources, including security camera video and a time-coded electronic lock on the apartment door that was opened with a special code established only for Wilson.
The door lock recorded Moriah Wilson leaving the apartment at 5:55 p.m. At 8:16, security footage shows Wilson and Strickland leaving Pool Burger on his motorcycle. More data shows when Wilson entered the apartment and documents Strickland riding away.
Based on that data, Austin police ruled out Strickland as the potential killer, NBC says.
But in the data were two important clues.
Ten minutes before Moriah and Colin returned from swimming and having dinner, a Ring camera showed a dark Jeep Cherokee with a "complicated bike rack" driving through the alley, past the apartment.
Eleven minutes later, NBC reports that a different Ring cam pictured what looked like the same vehicle driving slowly by, and then stopping, behind the apartment where Moriah was killed. This was one minute after the electronic lock indicated that Moriah opened the apartment door after being dropped off by Strickland.
"This was somebody that was watching [the apartment]," said DATELINE host Morrison. The car's driver, "an obvious person of interest."
The next morning, when police visited Strickland's home, there was a black Jeep Cherokee with a "very elaborate bike rack" parked by his house.
Who did the Jeep belong to? It was not his. It belonged to Strickland's long-time girlfriend, Kaitlin Armstrong.
(Next read the conclusion of our two part series, in which Armstrong disappears, is later found in Costa Rica, and extradited back to Travis County. Read about the interview with her attorney, who goes beyond a "reasonable doubt" defense and says there will be evidence that will exonerate her.)
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”
We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.
This restaurant claims to have the most authentic South Indian food, and from what I've heard, the claims might be true! Their menu features the traditional South Indian dishes of Idlis, Vadas, a variety of Dosas, and more.
If you're looking for an Indian and Tex-Mex fusion cozy restaurant, then look no further! Nasha on East 7th Street prides itself on its specialty margaritas, Tikka con Queso, Biryani, and more creative dishes!