Bride accused of pushing Kalispell man off cliff in Glacier Park

2013-09-10T14:30:00Z 2014-10-03T14:27:55Z Bride accused of pushing Kalispell man off cliff in Glacier Park

Cody Lee Johnson’s family is convinced the 25-year-old Kalispell man was murdered in Glacier National Park this summer.

Now federal authorities are, too – and they say it was Johnson’s new bride who allegedly pushed him over a cliff, and to his death, during an argument on July 7.

Johnson’s widow, 22-year-old Jordan Linn Graham of Kalispell, was taken into custody in Kalispell Monday morning and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Missoula Monday afternoon on a complaint alleging second-degree murder.

The couple had been married for eight days when Johnson was killed, according to Johnson family friend Tracey Maness.

“Nobody is shocked at all” that Graham is suspected in her husband’s murder, according to Maness. “She’d been telling people she knew she never wanted to be married, she just wanted to have a wedding, and that’s apparently what they were arguing about.”

According to an affidavit in support of the complaint, Graham allegedly confessed to the killing to FBI special agent Steven Liss in mid-July. Graham had initially told law enforcement her husband had gotten into a dark car with Washington plates on July 7 and never returned home.

Johnson’s body was located on July 12 below The Loop, a switchback and parking area on Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.


The affidavit says on July 16, Graham admitted to lying to authorities about the disappearance of her husband.

Instead of him leaving with an unknown person or persons, Graham said she and Johnson argued on the evening of July 7, and decided to travel to Glacier Park.

“Once there, they walked on The Loop hiking trail for a while and were arguing,” court documents say. “Then they walked to the other side of the trail to an area that was very steep and proceed(ed) down the rocks near a stump. Graham stated their argument intensified.”

Graham allegedly told Liss that she turned to walk away, but that Johnson grabbed her by her arm.

“After removing Johnson’s hand from her arm, Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff,” the complaint says.

An autopsy on July 19 confirmed Johnson’s injuries were consistent with a fall from a cliff.


The affidavit suggests authorities had their suspicions about the story Graham told them the day after Johnson was reported missing.

It alleges she initially said that after the couple arrived home from a dinner party on July 7, she realized her cell phone was going dead and she left by herself to collect her phone charger from another location.

“Graham said while she was retrieving her cell phone charger … she received a cellular text message from Johnson’s phone saying he was going for a drive with a friend from out of town,” the complaint states. “When Graham arrived back at the house she advised she saw a dark-colored car pulling out of the driveway. Graham stated she is sure Johnson was in the dark car.”

In a later interview, Graham allegedly told authorities she could not produce the text because “she and Johnson routinely delete their text messages.”

On July 11, a friend of Graham identified only as “K.M.” told authorities that Graham had recently informed her she was having second thoughts about having gotten married, and was going to talk to Johnson about it.

At 8:56 p.m. on the day Johnson died, the document says, Graham texted K.M., saying, “Oh well, I’m about to talk to him.”

“I’ll pray for you guys,” K.M. responded.

Graham replied to that by saying, “But dead serious if u don’t hear from me at all again tonight, something happened.”


Maness told Missoulian reporter Alice Miller last week that Johnson’s family was sure Cody had been murdered, and was frustrated the investigation had dragged into September without any information coming from authorities.

“He was very in love with Jordan,” Maness said last week. “And he was really excited about starting the next chapter of his life.”

The couple dated for two years, according to Maness, before Johnson proposed last December.

It was Graham who reported she had found Johnson’s body below The Loop four days after his “disappearance.”

A park ranger was dispatched to the Lake McDonald Camp Store at approximately 8:30 p.m. on July 11 to meet with the woman who said she’d located “a dead body.”

The ranger found Johnson’s wife there, and “commented to Graham he thought it was unusual that she had found the body,” the affidavit says. “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.’ ”

Another friend of the couple, identified as “A.H.,” told investigators that on the night of July 10, at a Faith Baptist Church service, Graham told her she had received an email while working at a daycare center.

“The email said Johnson had left with three friends, went hiking, had fallen, was dead, and the search should be called off,” the affidavit says.


Maness says family and friends suspected Graham “from the day (Johnson) went missing.”

“She kept continuing to lie, she kept changing her story,” Maness says. “She showed no grief and she would not speak to Cody’s mother.”

Graham made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch Monday, and was detained afterward.

She has not yet waived her right to a grand jury hearing, according to Victoria L. Francis, assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Montana. If Graham does not waive her right, the case will proceed to a grand jury, which would decide whether to indict her on the charges.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Kalispell Police Department, the Flathead County coroner, the FBI and the National Park Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno B. Baucus is the prosecutor.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) Comments

  1. AJLind
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    AJLind - December 12, 2013 5:12 pm
    That's very sad if it is true. God bless you.
  2. Vic Venom
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    Vic Venom - September 24, 2013 11:40 am
    She will get off on the charges, or at least get a light sentence. There is already talk of a "mercy killing" defense. She put him out of his misery, before he found himself years intoa loveless, bitter marriage.

    The crime was horrific, and what a horrible way to die, but at least he didn't have to suffer a few years, before she offed him.

    Also, my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. What a horrible way to lose a loved one and friend.
  3. Barak Nobama
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    Barak Nobama - September 19, 2013 11:44 am
    It doesn't sound premeditated to me Roger. What shocks me almost as much as the murder is her behavior afterwards.
  4. RPT
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    RPT - September 11, 2013 8:09 am
    What a horrible way to die...
  5. allthatjazz
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    allthatjazz - September 10, 2013 8:26 pm
    Thinking of the family of this young man. My condolences for the tragic loss of someone so dear to you.
  6. RoxanneRoxanadana
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    RoxanneRoxanadana - September 10, 2013 7:45 pm
    Those second thoughts can be deadly.
  7. familytruckster
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    familytruckster - September 10, 2013 5:44 pm
    Pretty much basic operating procedure at the Missoulian...
  8. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - September 10, 2013 4:26 pm
    Give the reporters a break. Are they supposed to go measure the cliff? If law enforcement or the US attorney don't include the information how will a reporter get it?. Besides how far he fell isn't very relevant. Obviously it was far enough to kill him. No one is going to measure the cliff for the criminal case either.
  9. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - September 10, 2013 4:23 pm
    Bond is hard to come by in the federal district court. Most serious crimes result in detention without bond in a federal court.
  10. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - September 10, 2013 4:21 pm
    Story doesn't say. But I wonder if insurance might be a motive? In this day and age divorces are pretty easy to get and you don't have to go to prison. Seems like ending the marriage isn't much of a motive.
  11. Re-Made in Montana
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    Re-Made in Montana - September 10, 2013 4:16 pm
    Clearly heat of passion.
  12. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - September 10, 2013 1:18 pm
    Deliberate Homicide is what the Montana Criminal Code says. Montana's Deliberate Homicide does not differentiate between premeditation and non-premeditation. This woman is charged under the federal criminal code because the crime is alleged to have happened in Glacier Park, which is in federal jurisdiction. The federal code does differentiate between First Degree murder (premeditatation) and Second Degree murder (unpremeditated).
  13. lalala
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    lalala - September 10, 2013 1:14 pm
    Gal sounds like a total sociopath! I'm surprised her fiance didn't see the signs beforehand. Very sad. I hope she stays in jail a long, long time.
  14. Pastor Ruth
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    Pastor Ruth - September 10, 2013 1:14 pm
    I do NOT believe she should get off lightly!

    There may be no easy way to determine premeditation, unless he called someone to say that his wife has requested a walk in the park. But the fact that she admitted to pushing him from behind, that he fell face forward should be enough to knock the self-defence off its feet. Further, SHE LEFT HIM THERE! Does an autopsy reveal that he died instantaneously, or that he lay there suffering and calling out to her for help? How convenient then that she got her act and her story together AFTER a lengthy period. Too bad there are no witnesses, but forensics are amazing these days.

    The Jury - including her - should all have to go to that place PERSONALLY, look down that cliff (that was no doubt very high, steep, and isolated) and have to imagine being PUSHED from that cliff themselves!

    I hope she gets the death penalty, but life WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PUSHING ANYONE ELSE OVER A CLIFF may be all we can hope for!

    (She COULD have gotten and Annulment and saved herself the time and trouble, and her poor "husband" would have been free to fall for someone else
  15. box211
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    box211 - September 10, 2013 12:03 pm
    Yeah, sounds like a real sweetheart.
  16. TrueAmerican
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    TrueAmerican - September 10, 2013 11:54 am
    OMG. What a horrible story.
  17. dtschuck
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    dtschuck - September 10, 2013 11:50 am
    Bride accused of pushing Kalispell man off cliff in Glacier Park
    That's why I always schedule my honeymoons in the flat lands and no where near water. When you are newly married, even putt-putt golf is a high risk activity.
  18. RickD
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    RickD - September 10, 2013 11:28 am
    Which is Deliberate Homicide without premeditation. Are your egos so inflated you cannot accept the fact this person was correct? You refuse to publish my reply showing they were in fact correct, instead you delete everything. That's poor journalism, but not to be unexpected in todays world.
  19. Roger
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    Roger - September 10, 2013 10:17 am
    Why is she only charged with second-degree murder? It appears that the killing was deliberate and premeditated, ergo first degree murder, and hopefully the death penalty if she's found guilty. Of course she's a woman, and they are treated far more leniently than men for the same crimes - look at the softball second-degree murder charge.
  20. RickD
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    RickD - September 10, 2013 9:25 am

    Second Degree murder is Deliberate Homicide w/o premeditation.

    The actual charge, as listed in the federal complaint, is 2nd degree murder. Here is the citation, copied from the complaint: MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE 18 U.S.C. Section 1111(a) and (b)

    Sherry Devlin, Missoulian editor

  21. Agencygrl
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    Agencygrl - September 10, 2013 9:18 am
    What a cold and calculating person. Very odd that in the middle of an argument they decide to go to Glacier park?? She's lying. She probably lured him up there with the intent of doing what she did. I'm almost certain the part about them arguing and him grabbing her arm is totally false. If he was grabbing her arm then he would've been facing her so how was it that she shoved him in the back with both hands? That sounds pretty determined and intentful, and to go back to the scene of the crime and be the person to find the body? How sick are you?
  22. walter12
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    walter12 - September 10, 2013 7:20 am
    Wow, I do not think that this evil woman will get off light this time. She is one of those famous Black Widow types that you read about.
  23. SteveCGIS
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    SteveCGIS - September 10, 2013 4:40 am
    This sounds exactly like my ex-wife except she killed my soul within days of our marriage.
  24. VerdugoTac
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    VerdugoTac - September 10, 2013 3:49 am

    And the charge is Deliberate Homicide

    Actually, VerdugoTac, the charge is 2nd degree murder. Here is the charge, copied verbatim from the federal complaint: MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE 18 U.S.C. Section 1111(a) and (b)

    Sherry Devlin, Missoulian editor

  25. VerdugoTac
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    VerdugoTac - September 10, 2013 3:49 am
    She's in the Missoula County jail at this time on a NO BOND FED HOLD
  26. tim johnson
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    tim johnson - September 10, 2013 3:07 am
    Interesting story, lots of details...but please, could one of the reporters include the basic fact: how stinking far did he fall? How BIG is the cliff???
    Are we talking 35 feet? 135 feet? 535 feet?
    Is that so much to ask?????
  27. Smilely
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    Smilely - September 09, 2013 3:52 pm
    It is a shame that gender bias still continues in this country. It would be so easy to treat all people accused of a crime equally. I can already see the police, the prosecutor, and the judicial system in general setting things up so this woman will get off light. If it was a man who had pushed a woman to her death and lied all along that the woman "had got into a black car with Washington state plates on it and drove off" as this Graham woman has done all summer, the guy would not have the second charge of involuntary manslaughter. The authorities are already lining her out for a sweet deal. They will eventually say there were no witnesses so they care happy with the involuntary manslaughter conviction. And of course what would a female story be without saying the guy grabbed her by the arm. Just imagine if the last sentence read: "HE says HE turned around, removed HER hand from HIS arm and pushed HER in the back, causing HER to fall off the cliff" - Pushing him from behind! With his back turned to her! The story is very telling also by not even mentioning whether or not she is in custody or any mention of a bond and no charge for a summer-long obstruction of justice.
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