HELENA – A newlywed bride accused of pushing her husband from a cliff to his death told Glacier National Park rangers where the body was so the search would be called off “and the cops will be out of it,” newly unsealed court documents said.
The affidavits by National Park Service Special Agent Justin Ivary provide that and other insights into the case that federal prosecutors are building against Jordan Graham of Kalispell.
Ivary’s written statements were made in support of search warrants seeking evidence from Graham’s Facebook and Twitter pages, her iPhone and an email account.
The documents were unsealed by a judge’s order Wednesday over the objections of Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus, who said their release might taint a potential jury pool.
Graham, 22, is charged with murder in the death of Cody Johnson, 25, on July 7, eight days after their Flathead Valley wedding. She has pleaded not guilty, and a Dec. 9 trial has been set.
Her federal public defender, Michael Donahoe, declined to comment Thursday. He previously said Graham acted in self-defense.
Prosecutors say Graham tried to cover up the crime by saying Johnson had disappeared after going out “joy riding” with friends, then she posted messages on social media sites purporting to look for him.
A friend of the couple told investigators that Graham planned to confront Johnson with her doubts about their marriage on July 7. The friend, whose name was deleted from court documents, told investigators that Graham sent a text late that night that said she had talked to her husband and “all it did was cause me to get scratched and him to leave.”
“Dude I’m freaking out. I’m about to go for a walk or something. Jump off a fricking bridge. Idk I’ve lost it,” one of the texts read, according to court documents.
Graham and her mother contacted the Kalispell Police Department on July 10, three days after Johnson disappeared, saying Graham received an email on her iPhone from a person named “Tony.”
The message said Johnson met with “Tony” in Columbia Falls outside the park, then went for a joy ride with buddies.
“Cody got out of the car and went for a little hike and they are positive he fell and he is dead Jordan. I don’t know who the guys were but they took off. So call off the missing person report. Cody is gone for sure – Tony,” the email read, according to documents.
Kalispell police discovered the email account was created on July 10 – the day Graham went to police with the message – from an Internet Protocol address issued to Graham’s father, Steve Rutledge. Graham has lived at Rutledge’s home since Johnson disappeared, the documents said.
Later that day, July 10, Graham drove to The Loop in Glacier Park, saying that if the body was found, the investigation would be called off, according to one of the three people who went with her.
Graham said, “I don’t care if they question me. I want the body found and the cops out of it,” the person told investigators.
The names of all the people interviewed were removed from the documents.
Graham said she wanted to check a spot where Johnson liked to hike, but the others talked her out of climbing down a retaining wall, the documents said.
The next day, Graham returned to The Loop with her mother and at least one other person and said she spotted the body from the cliff’s edge, a person who went with Graham that day told investigators. Graham alerted park rangers.
On the way home, Graham said, “Now that we have the body we can have the funeral and the cops will be out of it,” the person said.
In the days that followed, FBI agents reviewed GPS coordinates from Graham and Johnson’s phones that put both of them in Glacier Park that night. A National Park Service agent found surveillance video from a park entrance that captured images of a man and a woman in a car matching the description of Johnson’s.
Graham appeared voluntarily before Kalispell police and an FBI agent on July 16. There, she told officers that she and Johnson argued on July 7, and she told her husband they had married too young and that she was unhappy, the documents said.
They went to The Loop and continued the argument on the trail. At one point, Johnson grabbed her arm when she began to walk away, and she removed his arm and pushed him in the back and off the cliff, the documents said.
“She advised she was reluctant to report the incident for fear of being accused (of) pushing Johnson and not being given a chance to explain what happened,” Ivary wrote.