Graham’s Confession: ‘I Pushed Him and I Took Off’

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – Jordan Graham’s day began just like it ended; surrounded by an unrelenting media posse as she entered and exited the court that will determine her fate. On day three of her murder trial, the court heard a recording of Graham admitting that she pushed her husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff in Glacier National Park in July.

“I pushed him and I took off,” she said in the recording made by an FBI agent in Kalispell on July 16.

The court also heard heartbreaking testimony on Wednesday from Johnson’s mother, Sherry Johnson, in one of the most emotional moments of the trial so far. Along with Johnson’s mother, friends of the deceased’s took the stand to tell the court about the reservations they had surrounding their friend’s marriage to Graham, someone who has been described as closed off and “child-like,” even by the defense. Other witnesses, including Graham’s own step-father, took the stand to talk about a “surprise” the woman promised Johnson the day he died.

Graham, 22, of Kalispell, is charged with murdering Cody Johnson, also of Kalispell, on July 7 by allegedly pushing him off a cliff along Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. Graham has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making false statements to authorities. The defense is arguing that what happened to Johnson was an accident and that the lies Graham told in the days following it were because she was scared no one would believe her side of the story.

Early on Wednesday, Graham’s step-father, Steven Rutledge, took the stand and recounted the hours before Johnson was pushed off a cliff in Glacier Park. On July 7, the entire family attended a church service in Kalispell and Rutledge asked Johnson what the new couple had planned for the rest of the day. Johnson said he was unsure because Jordan had promised him a “surprise” that day. Two other witnesses, Brad Blasdel and Eddie Colon, also testified about Johnson talking about a surprise.

Johnson was reported missing on July 8. In the following days, Graham concocted a story that her 25-year-old husband of eight days had gone off with friends and had not returned. His body was found by Graham near the Loop on July 11.

FBI agent Stacey Smiedala had also heard about the “surprise” when he interviewed Graham on July 16. Graham told the agent that she was merely planning a barbeque to thank Johnson for organizing their wedding on June 29.

It was during that July 16 interview that Graham, after spinning a web of deception, finally admitted to authorities that she was with Johnson when he died. Graham had been invited to the Kalispell Police Department that afternoon to answer additional questions. When she arrived she met with Smiedala who asked for her side of the story. After Graham retold the story she had been spinning for the past week — one in which Johnson had left the couple’s home with unknown friends — Smiedala told Graham that he knew she was in Glacier with her husband that night. Graham suddenly grew silent and began to cry as Smiedala turned over a security camera photo from Glacier’s west entrance showing the couple driving into the park just after 9 p.m. on July 7.

Smiedala then took a recorded statement from Graham where she admitted that she pushed Johnson over the cliff. That recording has come under scrutiny by the defense because parts of the conversation are not recorded, but Smiedala said it was made using proper FBI protocol.

In the recording, Graham calmly tells Smiedala that she and Johnson were having a fight and decided to drive to Glacier to discuss their issues. While venturing off trail near the Loop, Graham said Johnson grabbed her arm. Graham then took Johnson’s hand off her and pushed him over the cliff.

“It was a quick thing, I just wanted to get him off me,” she said in the recorded interview. “I don’t feel like I killed him; I mean I pushed him, but it was an accident.”

Cameron Fredrickson, a close friend of Johnson’s, also took the stand and talked about the misgivings many of Johnson’s friends had about Graham. Fredrickson said the defendant would rarely spend time with them and she didn’t seem excessively interested in Johnson.

“I told him not to (marry Graham). I had my reservations about the relationship. It didn’t seem healthy,” he said. “The best way I could describe it was a one-sided relationship. Cody was giving his all and he wasn’t getting much back.”

Fredrickson also told the court that Graham was unemotional during the funeral and memorial for Johnson. Jacob Bell, another friend of Johnson’s, noticed the same behavior.

“She spent more time on her phone than paying attention,” he said.

But the most heartbreaking moment of court on Wednesday was when Johnson’s mother Sherry took the stand. She described a likeable young man who had fallen deeply in love with the woman who would eventually push him off a cliff. While testifying about Johnson’s wedding day, she broke down in front of the court.

“He said it was the best day of his life and that he was going to start a family,” she said as she started to weep. “I always wanted to be a grandmother.”

Shortly before 5 p.m. the court adjourned for evening recess. Court will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.