A 22-year-old Kalispell woman appeared in federal court Monday, Sept. 9 on a felony charge of second-degree murder for allegedly pushing her husband off a cliff in Glacier National Park.
Jordan Linn Graham made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in U.S. District Court in Missoula, where she faces allegations that she killed Cody Lee Johnson, 25, while hiking on The Loop Trail in Glacier Park. The couple had been married just eight days and Graham told at least one friend she was having second thoughts about the marriage, according to court records, and that she intended to discuss her misgivings with Johnson on Sunday, July 7.
That night she texted a friend and said she was about to talk to Johnson about her reservations about having gotten married the previous weekend.
The friend, identified only by initials, told the FBI about receiving the text from Graham just before 9 p.m. in which Graham said, “Oh well, I’m going to talk to him.”
The friend responded, “I’ll pray for you guys.”
Graham replied, “But dead serious if u don’t hear from me at all again tonight, something happened.”
On the evening of July 7, the couple drove to Glacier National Park and began arguing while they walked along a steep section of The Loop trail, according to court records. At some point, they scrambled down some rocks near a stump, and Johnson grabbed Graham’s arm while she walked away angrily. In response, she removed Johnson’s hands and pushed him with both hands in the back. He fell face first off the cliff, according to an affidavit in support of the federal complaint.
Graham faces possible penalties of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. She is detained on a federal hold at the Missoula County Detention Center and a detention hearing is scheduled for Sept. 11 in U.S. District Court.
An affidavit of probable cause by FBI Special Agent Steven Liss lays out a bizarre series of events and alleged lies that began the night of July 7, when Graham reported to authorities that Johnson had left their home in a dark-colored passenger vehicle, and that he sent her a text message explaining that he was going for a drive with friends. His mysterious departure came after the couple attended a dinner party with friends, she told authorities, and on the drive home Johnson “received a cell phone call that caused him to be upset,” records state.
On July 11, Graham reported finding Johnson’s body below The Loop, a popular viewpoint and parking area in Glacier Park. A park ranger was dispatched to the Lake McDonald Camp Store in Glacier Park to meet with Graham. When the park ranger told Graham he thought it was unusual that she had been the one to find the body, Graham replied, “it was a place he wanted to see before he died,” and, “he would come up here with friends to drive fast when his friends were visiting from out of state,” according to court records.
On July 16, however, Graham admitted that she lied to authorities about the circumstances of her husband’s disappearance and told investigators that she had pushed him off a cliff on the evening of July 7.
The allegations emerged Monday after two months of rumor and speculation by friends, family and members of the community who have been calling for answers to questions surrounding Johnson’s suspicious death.
A Twitter account bearing the handle “@whoKilledCody” was also created by an anonymous user one month after Johnson’s body was found. The first post began, “It’s time for JUSTICE! The murderer needs to be behind bars now! Please contact Kalispell Police with any information #whokilledcodyjohnson.” Another tweet stated: “It’s been a month without answers! We wont (sic) forget you Cody and we wont (sic) let your killer get away!”
Unsubstantiated rumors and gossip about Graham’s involvement in Johnson’s death were rampant in many of the tweets, and a separate online forum at websleuths.com features a thread posing similar questions and conjecture.
But until Monday, Johnson’s friends and family received no clear answers as the FBI remained mum about the progress of the investigation, saying only that it is open and ongoing.
Graham is being represented by federal defenders Andrew Nelson and Michael Donahoe. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno Baucus and Kris McLean are prosecuting the case.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Kalispell Police Department, the FBI, the Flathead County coroner and the National Park Service.
RELATED: What Happened to Cody?
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.