Text messages between Jordan Linn Graham, who is accused of killing her husband of eight days, and a friend revealed that the Kalispell woman didn’t want to have sex with her husband and was afraid of his temper.
The exchange came to light at Graham’s trial, which began in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Monday. It’s unknown if Graham, who was present in the packed courtroom, will testify before the eight-man, six-woman jury.
Graham, 22, is accused of pushing her husband, Cody Johnson, 25, off a cliff in Glacier National Park on July 7 and lying afterward, telling law enforcement officers and friends that Johnson went on a joyride with friends from Washington.
Graham eventually led park rangers to his body and on July 16 confessed to pushing her husband off the ledge after he grabbed her arm during a heated argument, according to court documents.
She has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree murder and providing a false statement to law enforcement.
Kimberly Martinez, matron of honor at Graham’s wedding, and Jennifer Toren, Johnson’s friend of three years, were the first two witnesses called to testify in the trial.
In an exchange of text messages between Graham and Martinez, Graham said repeatedly that she was having second thoughts about marrying Johnson and that he held her down and became angry with her on occasion.
She also expressed reservations about their sexual relationship.
“I just know he is gonna wanna (sic) do stuff I’m not wanting to,” Graham wrote in one text to Martinez.
After Martinez suggested Graham tell her husband if she didn’t want to have sex, Graham said, “I feel like it’s my job to make him happy, even if I’m miserable.“ Martinez urged Graham to discuss her feelings with her new husband, confident that Johnson would respect her wishes.
But Graham delayed speaking to her husband, until the evening of July 7.
“I’m about to talk to him,” she texted at 9:01 p.m., but warned Martinez that if she didn’t hear back from her, something likely was wrong.
Nearly two hours later, Graham sent Martinez another message, saying that she was “freaking out” and didn’t know what to do.
“I’m about to go for a walk or something. Jump off a fricking bridge. … I’ve lost it,” she wrote.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean told the court that during Graham’s drive home from Glacier Park, she didn’t call anyone for help or stop somewhere to seek assistance.
Instead, she sent a text message to Martinez, expressing her anxiety. She also sent a message to a church friend about a dance move they would perform at a Hawaiian-themed church party, McLean said.
In the nine days after Johnson’s death, Graham didn’t tell anyone about her involvement in his fatal fall. In fact, Graham didn’t acknowledge the role she played until July 16, when FBI investigator Stacey Smiedala showed her a photo of the newlyweds entering the park in Johnson’s car, McLean said.
McLean said he will illustrate Graham’s mental state before, during and after Johnson’s death to prove that she planned her husband’s murder beforehand and intentionally pushed him off the cliff.
Admittedly, she had never been that emotional before and could have walked away, he said, but she didn’t.
Graham’s attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Andrew Nelson, painted Johnson’s death as an accident and the defendant as a “scared rabbit,” too terrified to come forward with the truth and forced to create a “web of lies.”
“It was not all marital bliss – at least not for Jordan,” Nelson said.
He described Graham as a sheltered woman, whose only employment has been taking care of children and who left her parents’ house at 21 to live with her husband.
She wasn’t even allowed to date until she was 18, Nelson said.
On the night of July 7, Graham wanted to speak to her new husband about her reservations, Nelson said. They married young – perhaps too young, he said.
After going to the evening service at their church, Graham and Johnson drove to the park and got out of the car. It was Johnson, Nelson said, who scrambled over the retaining wall and onto the ledge.
Near a stump, the two argued, and Johnson grabbed Graham’s arm. Graham reacted. And then it happened spontaneously, Nelson said.
“Grab. Push. Fall,” he said.
She pushed him over the stump and he fell to his death, Nelson said.
“She started to run from the moment she walked away from the ledge, getting in the car and driving away like a scared rabbit,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy told the court he intends to finish the trial by Friday. Testimony will resume at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday.