The Homicide of Moriah Wilson

Three: What Occurred Between Them

Again in June 2019, when Strickland beat a bunch of Tour de France professionals at Unbound and immediately turned one of the crucial outstanding athletes within the biking world, I used to be stoked. I’d watched him come of age as a racer within the Austin biking scene. We’d chatted on lengthy rides and butted heads in native races—then shared beers afterward. A few occasions, Strickland sought my recommendation on some professional biking dilemma he was going through. I’d give him my trustworthy opinion, then he’d do the alternative and completely make it work. I revered the hell out of him for that.

Whether or not Strickland was profitable or struggling, I’d typically ship him a textual content or Instagram message of help—saying, basically, “preserve going.” When he gained Unbound, I used to be working for FloSports, an organization that live-streams skilled biking. We produced numerous content material with him. He gave us a tour of his gearhead storage and confirmed me tips on how to restore biking garments on his classic stitching machine. A brief movie I made chronicled Strickland’s rise from renegade alleycat racer to the world’s finest gravel bicycle owner, a rider gifted sufficient on a highway bike that he was briefly recruited by an American Tour de France workforce.

Till I started reporting this story, I didn’t know rather a lot about Strickland’s private life. However generally native gossip about who’s courting who would contain him. He didn’t sound like somebody who chased drama. It was extra like he lacked a sure form of emotional intelligence when it got here to relationships. Issues that appeared apparent to everybody else didn’t appear to happen to him.

I don’t assume Strickland headed out on his motorbike on Might 11 with the intention of choosing up Wilson for a romantic liaison. When he invited her to go swimming, he didn’t take into account that lots of people (together with me) would possibly view this resolution as inappropriate. Particularly if you happen to’re in a dedicated relationship and your associate doesn’t know what you’re as much as. However Colin views the world in a different way, and more often than not that’s labored out for him. He provides pals rides on the again of his BMW on a regular basis, female and male, what’s the massive deal?

He knew that he and Wilson had been simply pals at that time, and he had no intention of dishonest on Armstrong. However he additionally ought to have identified that mendacity to Armstrong about connecting with Wilson was a horrible thought. If you end up hiding one thing out of your associate, you in all probability shouldn’t be doing it in any respect.

In 2019, again earlier than Strickland had met Armstrong, he typically frightened {that a} deep emotional attachment could possibly be counterproductive to his biking ambitions. However, that 12 months, following his most profitable racing season but, he felt a renewed urgency to fulfill someone he may get severe about. He downloaded the courting app Hinge, which touts itself because the anti-Tinder, geared towards singles on the lookout for actual connection as an alternative of informal hookups. In October 2019, he discovered Armstrong.

They met for a glass of wine on the Meteor on South Congress, then went for a stroll alongside the boardwalk beside Woman Fowl Lake, with the Austin skyline glowing on the water. Although Strickland noticed Armstrong as candy and clever, and definitely thought she was enticing, he didn’t sense a direct romantic connection.

Superficially, they appeared fairly totally different. She didn’t share his eclectic pursuits in music and artwork. He purchased high quality items and repaired his personal clothes; she didn’t thoughts purchasing at low-cost chain shops. He grew up on an natural farm and thought deeply about meals; she didn’t actually cook dinner. He went to a hippie-style Waldorf college; she grew up in Livonia, a middle-class suburb of Detroit.

Through the first few months they dated, Strickland thought-about breaking it off earlier than issues received too far alongside. However Armstrong’s kindness, persistence, and positivity stored him from slicing ties.

Then the pandemic hit. Races had been canceled. Journey stopped. Strickland and Armstrong spent extra time collectively and grew as a pair. He launched her to biking, and she or he developed a ardour for the game. Quickly she was robust sufficient to draft him on his lengthy coaching rides. She additionally supported him nevertheless she may. Through the pandemic, for instance, Armstrong spent 5 days on the telephone serving to Strickland’s mom entry unemployment advantages. This made him understand that an individual’s coronary heart was extra essential than the music they listened to.

In February 2021, an ice storm struck Texas; the pipes in Armstrong’s condominium burst, making the place uninhabitable. Armstrong stayed with Strickland whereas repairs had been made. When she requested about dwelling collectively full-time, although, he was hesitant. For half of yearly, his mother lived with him in his four-bedroom dwelling. Extra essential, he frightened concerning the emotional dependency that dwelling with Armstrong would possibly create for each of them.

Across the similar time, as Armstrong was working to get her actual property license, she started investing in property. Strickland and Armstrong purchased a home collectively in Lockhart, a small city simply south of Austin, and Armstrong purchased two houses in South Austin, together with one in Strickland’s neighborhood. They spent hours planning fashionable renovations to that home, together with a customized metal fence Armstrong had put in. Her purpose was to maneuver into the place as soon as the renovations had been finished, in six months or so. However greater than a 12 months after Kaitlin had moved in with Strickland, they had been nonetheless dwelling collectively.

They’d additionally fashioned a enterprise, Wheelhouse Cell, that concerned restoring and promoting personalized Spartan trailers. Armstrong turned an agent for Sotheby’s, the place they may promote the trailers for as a lot as $350,000 every. Seemingly with out excited about it a lot, nearly each aspect of their lives turned intertwined. She managed Wheelhouse Cell and far of his racing funds, and she or he had entry to most of his telephone and laptop passwords.

Folks preferred Strickland and Armstrong, however numerous their mutual pals advised me that their relationship appeared messy. A few of Strickland’s pals thought Armstrong had turn out to be too hooked up to his public persona.

One instance occurred previous to a gaggle experience in Austin. Strickland’s clothes sponsor, Rapha, had made him an unique biking package, with all his sponsorship logos. He’d ordered one for Armstrong, too, as a present, however requested her to not put on it at public occasions. He thought that may be improper, that his sponsors may not prefer it. The morning of the experience, when Armstrong got here out dressed within the package, Strickland requested her to vary. Stung, Armstrong determined to skip the experience solely.

On Armstrong’s aspect of the ledger, pals of each her and Strickland had witnessed him communicate rudely to her, to a level that compelled them to name him on it. Considered one of his bike trade pals, Andy Chasteen, talked about this with me, though considerably reluctantly.

“I hate to talk badly about anybody,” he stated. However Strickland could possibly be “extraordinarily condescending to individuals who he is aware of and he’s near.” Chasteen had seen it occur with one in every of Strickland’s male teammates, too, and even along with his personal mother—in all probability the particular person he’s closest to on the planet.

Chris Tolley, a buddy of mine who knew each Strickland and Armstrong effectively, shared his idea about why she put up along with his impolite conduct. Tolley advised me that each he and Armstrong grew up in houses with an alcoholic mum or dad.

“If you’re raised like that,” he stated, “your vanity is tremendous low” and you may be way more forgiving of rocky relationships. Tolley was effectively conscious that Strickland may appear chilly, typically referring to Armstrong as his “buddy” relatively than his girlfriend. Shut acquaintances would say one thing like: Look, if you happen to’re not into her, let her go. You guys are in your mid-thirties, and she or he’s able to quiet down. It’s too late to screw round like this. When Strickland and Armstrong got here again from Bentonville within the fall of 2021 and broke up, it appeared doubtless that each of them would transfer on.

Then, in late October, a couple of days after he’d ended issues with Armstrong, Strickland received a message from Wilson. She was coming to Austin to hang around with pals for per week and work remotely. Did he need to get collectively?