Prosecutors Recommend Life in Prison for Jordan Graham

By Beacon Staff

Federal prosecutors are recommending that the Kalispell woman convicted of murdering her husband of eight days in Glacier National Park last summer spend the rest of her life in prison. On March 18, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean filed paperwork asking that Jordan Graham receive life in prison, and nothing less than 50 years, at her sentencing scheduled for March 27 in Missoula.

Graham’s attorneys, Andy Nelson and Michael Donahoe, argue that the 22-year-old woman should receive 10 years in prison and an additional five years of supervised release.

“The defendant, despite offering no remorse, has left a mother childless, upended a community, and shown no respect for the law during this entire process,” McLean wrote. “Through her actions, including the murder of Cody and conduct that followed, the defendant has demonstrated that she is extremely dangerous, predatory and an unrependent murderer.”

On July 7, 2013, Graham pushed her new husband, Cody Lee Johnson, 25, off a cliff to his death near The Loop, along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. She then fled the scene and returned to Kalispell. In the following days, she told friends, family and law enforcement that Johnson had left their home in Kalispell that night with some “car buddies” from Washington and did not return. Friends and law enforcement were suspicious, especially after Graham discovered Johnson’s body at the bottom of a ravine on July 11, telling authorities she had a feeling because it was a spot in Glacier Park he wanted to see the overlook it in his lifetime.

On July 16, Graham met with an FBI agent in Kalispell and admitted murdering Johnson a week earlier after she was confronted with security camera footage that placed Johnson and her husband inside the park. On Oct. 3, she was charged with first- and second-degree murder and with lying to authorities.

On Dec. 9, Graham’s trial began in Missoula. For two-and-a-half days, federal prosecutors, led by McLean and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus, presented evidence that Graham purposely murdered her husband. More than 30 witnesses took the stand, including Johnson’s mother, who broke down during one of the most dramatic moments of the trial.

The government rested its case on Dec. 12 and handed the floor over to the defense, which tried to paint a picture of Graham as a “child-like” person who wasn’t ready for the responsibility of marriage. The defense attorneys said what happened on the night of July 7 was a tragic accident and that Graham lied about Johnson’s death because she thought no one would believe her side of the story.

Just moments before closing arguments, Graham shocked the courtroom when she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

In a tense scene, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy asked Graham to tell the truth of what happened that night on a cliff in Glacier National Park. Graham told the court her version of events.

“I was there on the ledge with Cody, there was a heated argument and I had no regard for our surroundings and I pushed,” she said. “I was scared and I didn’t know what to do.”

But some, including one of her closest friends, Kimberly Martinez, still believe Graham has not told the truth about what happened that night. And multiple witnesses remember Johnson saying that Graham had a “surprise” for him the night of his death and, although it was not admitted as evidence during the trial, prosecutors say DNA evidence connects a piece of cloth found nearby in the ravine to Johnson’s body. They contend that the 24-inch long black cloth with small holes poked in its center may have been used as a blindfold.

“It breaks my heart to have to write a letter like this, but Cody became a close friend to me and my family. He didn’t deserve what happened to him and I want to make sure that Jordan gets what she deserves,” Martinez wrote. “She knows what she did was wrong and for some reason she refuses to tell the whole truth.”

RELATED: A Murder In Glacier Park

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