Montana bride claims husband said could hike cliff trail blindfolded: documents

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 13, 2013 6:09 PM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A Montana bride accused of shoving her new husband off a cliff at Glacier National Park told authorities she had been reluctant to hike the steep trail but her husband said he could do it blindfolded, court records showed.

Federal authorities say 22-year-old Jordan Graham was unhappy in her nascent marriage and shoved her husband of eight days off a rock ledge at Glacier during an argument while hiking on July 7.

In a case that has drawn national attention, Graham was indicted last month on charges of first- and second-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Cody Johnson. Her attorneys have said his death was an accident.

One version of events advanced by prosecutors in the case contends that Graham may have blindfolded her husband before pushing him to his death and then lied to cover up the crime, according to legal documents filed by the defense that made reference to that theory.

Graham, in an interrogation more than a week after the death, told an FBI agent that the Kalispell, Montana, newlyweds had been having a marital spat in which Johnson grabbed at her arm.

"So I kinda said, ‘Let go' and I pushed, and he went over," Graham said, according to a transcript of an FBI interrogation on July 16 filed late on Tuesday to support a request to dismiss murder charges.

She also told the agent she had been afraid to hike the trail because of the cliff, but that her husband said he could do so with a blindfold.

"And he said, ‘I could just put it on, take a step but I wouldn't even fall.' And I was like, and it just kept going through my head that, um, you are going to fall or something," Graham said in excerpts from the recorded interview.

The excerpts were filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, by Graham's federal public defender, Michael Donahoe, who wants the charges thrown out based on misconduct by federal prosecutors. The trial is due to begin next month, and Graham could face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first degree murder.

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Donahoe has scolded U.S. authorities for labeling his client a sociopath, accused them of distorting statements she made, and contended they recorded only those segments of interviews that bolstered the government's case, according to court documents.

He said federal attorneys have not disclosed any evidence of the premeditation alleged in the first-degree murder charge except for mentioning during a recent telephone conference that "the government now believes Jordan placed a blindfold on Cody before pushing him off the ledge."

The theory is tied to a "piece of cloth" found near Johnson's body that investigators have sent for DNA analysis. Federal prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)