Bride accused in pushing husband off cliff pleads not guilty
MISSOULA, Mont. • A newlywed bride accused of pushing her husband off a cliff to his death in Glacier National Park after having second thoughts about her marriage pleaded not guilty to murder charges Friday.
Jordan Linn Graham, 22, appeared in U.S. District Court in Missoula on a new federal grand jury indictment charging her with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making a false statement about the death of Cody Lee Johnson.
The Kalispell couple had been married for eight days when Johnson, 25, disappeared July 7. Graham originally told investigators that Johnson's "buddies from Washington probably came and got him," according to the indictment.
Graham's attorney, Michael Donahoe, entered not guilty pleas on her behalf after U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch read the charges.
Graham was released on her own recognizance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said Graham should be detained pending trial but he would respect Lynch's decision.
Graham did not comment as she entered the courthouse through a maze of reporters shouting questions at her. She sat alone with her head bowed on a bench outside the courtroom, away from the windows and the cameras outside, until her attorney arrived.
She exited through a rear doorway after the hearing that lasted less than five minutes.
Donahoe declined to comment afterward. Last month, he said Graham was acting in self-defense and Johnson's death was an accident.
Johnson was reported missing July 8 when he did not show up at work, and Graham told investigators the next day that she had seen a dark-colored car pulling out of their driveway, according to a statement by an FBI investigator filed with the court.
Two days later, Graham told a Glacier park ranger that she had found Johnson's body below the popular Loop area, the statement said.
Prosecutors say Graham lied and was with Johnson in Glacier National Park on the night of July 7. She told investigators five days after that first interview that she and Johnson had an argument, were upset and decided to go to the Loop Trail.
Earlier that day, Graham told a friend she was having second thoughts about getting married and meant to talk to Johnson about it. She said if the friend didn't hear from her again that night, "something happened," the FBI affidavit said.
Graham told investigators she and Johnson argued on the trail, and the quarrel intensified. Johnson grabbed her arm as she turned to walk away, and she pushed him with both hands in the back, causing him to fall head-first from a steep cliff, the affidavit said.
Graham had appeared in court last month on a second-degree murder charge. She was released then after Lynch ruled she wasn't a flight risk because of her strong community ties in Kalispell.
Graham faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Lynch set the next hearing in the case for Oct. 15.