There is an intriguing case out of Montana this week where Jordan Linn Graham, 22, is accused of murdering her new husband Cody Lee Johnson, 25, by pushing him off a cliff at the Glacier National Park. There were no witnesses to the act but Graham left a trail of conflicting accounts and emails discussing how she was having second thoughts about the marriage after only a few days. She was the one who reported finding the body and said that she looked in a place that Johnson said he wanted to see before he died.
In the text messages to a friend, she portrayed herself as in danger when she said that she was going to tell him that, after 8 days, the marriage was over. A friend received a message saying Graham replied to that by saying, “But dead serious if u don’t hear from me at all again tonight, something happened.”
The circumstantial evidence places Graham in a very bad light. She sent an email to a friend saying that she was going to tell Johnson about her unhappiness in being married on the hike and she admitted that they had an argument. While the two had dated for years, a family friend stated that she said that she wanted out of the marriage and only wanted to have a wedding.
Graham originally told police that her husband had gotten into a dark car with Washington plate and simply never returned home. However, she said that she received a text from him saying that he was going for a drive but could not retrieve the text message.
It was Graham who called the rangers after claiming to find the body. She told the ranger that she found “a dead body.” It turned out to be her husband which the ranger thought a bit of a coincidence. However, “Graham replied, ‘It was a place he wanted to see before he died . . . He would come up here with friends to drive fast when his friends were visiting from out of state.’ ”
FBI agent Steven Liss says that she ultimately confessed to him. He says that she admitted that they had argued as they walked on The Loop hiking trail. The agent says that “Then they walked to the other side of the trail to an area that was very steep and proceed(ed) down the rocks near a stump. Graham stated their argument intensified.” It was then that Graham said that he turned to walk away and Johnson grabbed her arm: “After removing Johnson’s hand from her arm, Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff.”
Graham appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch Monday and was detained at that time.
It is a truly bizarre case. Even without finding the body, it does not look good to go on a hike and not call to report the disappearance for days. Ironically, absent witnesses, a fall on such a hike might not have been a provable homicide if she claimed it to be an accident — even with the desire to end the marriage. Her actions created a terrible circumstantial record and a challenge for any defense attorney handling the second degree murder case.