Montana man allegedly shoved by bride fell face first off cliff: prosecutors

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 14, 2013 8:33 PM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Injuries on the body of a Montana man whose wife is accused of pushing him to his death off a cliff at Glacier National Park suggest he was shoved from behind and fell face first into a ravine, U.S. federal prosecutors said in court documents filed on Thursday.

Federal authorities say Jordan Graham, 22, was unhappy in her new marriage and shoved her husband of eight days off a rock ledge at the national park in Montana during an argument while hiking on July 7.

Graham was indicted last month on charges of first- and second-degree murder in the death of Cody Johnson, 25. Her attorneys have said his death was an accident.

Prosecutors said autopsy photos show that Johnson's injuries were consistent with "being pushed in the back," and contend his wife admitted in a tear-filled questioning session to shoving him after being shown evidence that she had been at the park with him on the night of his death.

"The defendant continued to cry and admitted she pushed him in the back with two hands to his death," the court filing said.

The filings by prosecutors on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, came in response to a motion by the defense to dismiss all or part of the case and to defense requests to exclude evidence including the autopsy photos.

Johnson was reported missing on July 8 after he failed to show up for work in his hometown of Kalispell. Graham told police at the time that she last had contact with her husband when he texted her to say he was going for a drive with friends the night before.

A search ended five days after Johnson disappeared when Graham told emergency dispatchers at Glacier that she had found his body, before admitting more than a week later, according to prosecutors, that the newlyweds had been having a marital spat while hiking when Johnson grabbed her arm, and she pushed him.

Her attorneys want a judge to dismiss the indictment or strike down the first-degree murder charge, which alleges premeditation and carries a mandatory life sentence. They argue that prosecutors twisted statements she made and failed to record key exchanges.

Prosecutors urged the court to reject those requests, saying that "the gall of her position would be preposterous if not for the serious nature of the crime that she committed."

They also denied assertions by Graham's federal defender that they are alleging premeditation tied to a cloth found near Johnson's body that, according to one theory of the case, could have been a blindfold.

Prosecutors said they told Graham's attorney that they were sending the cloth for DNA analysis.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Will Dunham)