AUSTIN, Texas - The lead detective in the Moriah Wilson murder case was back on the witness stand on Wednesday, Nov. 8 with the defense trying to undermine his experience and poke holes in the investigation process.
Hours into testimony, the defense asked the judge to move for a mistrial. The defense learned while questioning Det. Spitler that APD had created a report on the vandalism that occurred at Colin Strickland’s home the day after Wilson’s murder. The defense had not received that report and believed it to be highly relevant to the case.
The request for a mistrial was denied, but the judge did allow for the report to be entered into evidence.
Also entered into evidence were records showing that Kaitlin Armstrong had changed her email address after the murder date.
Within a week of the murder, via that email she received Uber receipts for a ride to the Austin airport and flight information for a flight to New York. There was also an email with information for a flight to Costa Rica in Armstrong’s sister’s name.
In June, search history showed Armstrong had searched "kaitlin armstrong" and visited some websites with news articles about the case. Other phrases that were searched included, "can imei be tracked if not making phone calls" and "can pineapples burn your fingerprints." There were also multiple searches related to plastic surgery.
Meanwhile, the defense has wanted to show that Det. Spitler jumped too quickly to identifying Armstrong as a suspect without direct evidence tying her to the crime and without due diligence in excluding known associates like an ex-boyfriend. They hinted at this in opening statements.
"You may already have your mind made up," said Geoffrey Puryear, defense attorney, on the first day of the trial. "I know Detective Richard Spitler with the Austin Police Department certainly did, just hours into his investigation."
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The defense also tried to cast doubt on Det. Spitler’s qualifications.
"You had been a homicide detective for approximately 60 days when this case began, correct?" asked Rick Cofer, defense attorney.
When asked, Det. Spitler said prior to May 2022 he had not undergone any homicide-specific training. He had gone to multiple homicide-related trainings since May 2022. Previously, he worked aggravated assault cases.
The defense also interrogated Det. Spitler about his choice not to get Moriah Wilson’s rape kit forensically analyzed and his decision not to issue a search warrant for Strickland’s laptop. Det. Spitler had searched it himself and returned it to Strickland shortly after.
Other witnesses that testified on Wednesday included the owner of a restaurant across the street from Pool Burger, the manager of CarMax and a couple of Armstrong’s friends.