A groomsman in Cody Lee Johnson’s wedding warned him not to marry Jordan Linn Graham, who authorities now say pushed her husband of one week off a cliff in Glacier National Park.
“Their interaction with each other, it didn’t seem like a happy, loving relationship that you would normally see. It was just very awkward, I guess,” said Cameron Fredrickson, who knew Johnson since 2006.
“She was just very distant and reserved,” said Fredrickson, who worked with Johnson at Nomad Global Communication Solutions in Kalispell.
On Monday, federal authorities took 22-year-old Graham into custody under a criminal complaint that contends she killed Johnson just days after their wedding, during an argument on a trail near Glacier’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road.
As of Tuesday evening, Graham remained in the Missoula County jail. It was not immediately clear if she has waived her right to a grand jury hearing. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges second-degree murder.
The case is the first murder in Glacier National Park’s history.
Although another suspicious death did occur in the park in 1983, Johnson’s death is the first to result in murder charges, park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
The story drew international media attention Tuesday, with photos and a story in Britain’s Daily Mail and three separate segments on CNN – in addition to Associated Press accounts published nationwide and commentary on Internet news sites and talk shows.
The gregarious and outgoing Johnson proposed to the shy Graham shortly before Christmas 2012, after a year of dating. The Kalispell couple had been together about two years when they married, Fredrickson said Tuesday.
Graham rarely spent time with Johnson’s friends during their courtship, and when she did, she was antisocial and unfriendly, he said.
Fredrickson felt so strongly that the couple wasn’t right for each other that he warned the 25-year-old Johnson not to marry Graham – and said he wasn’t the only friend to do so.
Johnson, though, was sure of his love for Graham and showed it on their wedding day, Fredrickson said.
“He was ecstatic. We knew it was what he wanted. There was no doubt about it,” he said.
Graham, however, did not look at Johnson while they recited their vows at the wedding, Fredrickson said.
If Johnson had reservations about the marriage, he didn’t reveal them in the eight days before his death – and probably wouldn’t have since his friends had expressed their own misgivings about the union, Fredrickson said.
In an interview with investigators, though, a friend of Graham’s identified only as K.M. told officers that Graham confided in her that she was having second thoughts about the marriage.
When Johnson didn’t show up for work on July 8, Fredrickson said he knew something was wrong and called and texted Johnson and relatives, trying to find him. He even called local media outlets, seeking help in getting out the word to look for Johnson.
Changes in Graham’s stories to him and to police fueled his suspicion that foul play was involved, and Fredrickson said he went to authorities with text messages he exchanged with Graham.
Initially, Graham told him that she hadn’t been at the house when Johnson left on the evening of July 7. Then, she told authorities that she had seen Johnson get into a dark-colored vehicle with Washington plates.
Johnson hadn’t indicated anything was wrong during the numerous times friends saw him between the wedding and his disappearance, Fredrickson said.
“There wasn’t anything different,” he said.
Johnson wanted to spend his life with an honest, wholesome Christian girl, and Graham, who worked as a nanny, embodies that, said Lytaunie Blasdel, who has known Jordan since childhood and was a mutual friend of the couple.
“That was just Jordan, that just summed her up,” said Blasdel, whose brother introduced the couple.
Johnson was smitten with Graham immediately, she said, and the couple rarely fought.
Blasdel said things seemed a little off during the wedding, but that could have been because Graham was a painfully shy person and uncomfortable with the day’s attention. Graham sobbed before the ceremony, but Blasdel said she never learned why.
Graham’s arrest was unexpected, said Blasdel, who added that she and Graham had a falling out and hadn’t been particularly close for about a year, but that she attended the wedding.
“You don’t expect that to happen. It’s not like she was a disturbed person by any means,” she said.
Her behavior after Johnson’s disappearance was strange, though, Blasdel said.
“I just kept telling myself, maybe it’s a coping mechanism or maybe it’s because she’s around children all day and she doesn’t want to upset them,” Blasdel said.
The evening of July 11, Graham told authorities that she had found Johnson’s body in Glacier, according to the affidavit. His body was located by park officials on July 12, and had to be retrieved by helicopter – so steep was the terrain.
When authorities interviewed Graham again on July 16, she admitted giving false statements previously and said she had gotten in an argument with Johnson the night of his death.
The night of July 7, the couple drove to Glacier, where they walked along a trail in The Loop area, before they walked to the other side of the trail where the terrain was very steep, Graham said.
Their argument intensified and, at one point, Johnson grabbed 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 affidavit said.
When, days later, a park ranger responded to Graham’s call that she had found her husband’s body, he remarked that it was unusual that she was the one who located Johnson.
She replied: “It was a place he wanted to see before he died,” and added, “He would come up here with friends to drive fast when his friends were visiting from out of state.”
Graham’s arrest brings some closure to his family and friends, but opens up a whole new battle, said Tracey Maness, a close family friend.
“Basically, we’re just holding onto hope that it will be resolved, that charges will stick and someone will be punished,” Maness said Tuesday.
Like Maness, Fredrickson said the charges aren’t a surprise and that the ordeal is a long way from finished.
“Everyone’s like, OK, finally. It took long enough,” he said.
Why Graham would go so far as to kill Johnson remains a mystery, although there has been plenty of speculation, he said, adding he questions whether Johnson ever grabbed Graham’s arm during the argument.
Johnson was light-hearted, loving, selfless and easy going, Fredrickson said.
“He was just one of those great friends who was always a pleasure to have around. He was an overall great, good-hearted guy,” he said.
“My thought is that it’s really not closure because I suspected her from the beginning,” he said. “I want to know the whole story – in the affidavit, it said that she could have walked away but she didn’t.”
Questions remain as to why Johnson was killed, Blasdel said.
Johnson was the man every father hopes his daughter will marry. Graham was just naturally a quiet person, she said.
“And why not just walk away?” she said.