Colin Strickland, murderer?

July 5, 2022 Comments Off on Colin Strickland, murderer?

Whoever thought that gravel racing’s international limelight debut would be in the form of a killing?

The story pitched by the media is simple: jealous lover kills rival.

Justice will presumably be done. The suspected killer, Kaitlin Armstrong, could spend her life behind bars, or perhaps even get the death penalty. Mo Wilson, a rising star in gravel racing, will be eulogized and mourned for a life cut short at the incomprehensibly young age of 25.

Most meaningfully, Colin Strickland, the boyfriend-deceiver, will likely resume his over the hill cycling “career” as a “gravel professional” after the appropriate period of therapy and mourning. In due time he should be able to get back up to the big paydays of a gravel pro, which I’d guess are at least $50 and a BWR water bottle, maybe even a pair of matching socks.

But he will resume this stellar career minus his current stable of sponsors, although, true to form, Red Bull has yet to terminate his contract. This is the same company run by right-wing Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschiz who has long supported reactionary politicians, racist athletes, and who has targeted the young and the poor as prime consumers of an “energy drink” outlawed in several European nations.

But I digress …

Why has anyone severed ties with Colin Strickland? He didn’t shoot anyone. He isn’t a suspect. He’s not part of a conspiracy or even an accomplice. In the words of an unnamed source quoted by the Sun, “He’s a douche and a player,” and nothing more.

If being a douche and a player were grounds for losing sponsorship, the sponsored ranks of professional athletics and celebrity-dom would be slim indeed. I mean, “Stray Cat Blues” by The Rolling Stones is a song that literally glorifies the rape of homeless teen girls. And if that’s so socially unacceptable, why are good tickets for their 2022 tour upwards of $600?

In my opinion, Colin Strickland lost his sponsorships because although he committed no crime, he clearly appears to be the person who set in motion the chain of events that led to the murder of one of the two girls he appeared to be stringing along, Mo Wilson. The fact pattern seems sociopathic and all too common: narcissist has relationship with woman which allows him to live the fantasy pro lifestyle that his meager sponsorships in a niche sport would never enable. Narcissist starts fucking woman ten years younger than his girlfriend. Girlfriend finds out and narcissist engages the tried and true “triangulation” of a narcissist, seemingly lying to both women, and appearing to use the new woman to destabilize the mental health of the other.

Narcissist keeps up relationship with younger woman while claiming to girlfriend he’s done with fling; that’s certainly how it appears. Girlfriend knows she’s being gaslighted but can’t prove it because THAT’S WHAT GASLIGHTING IS. Rather than take her rage out on the narcissist boyfriend, girlfriend focuses her anger on the younger woman, who also appears to be hoodwinked by the narcissist into thinking that she’s perhaps still in the running to be the real girlfriend … unless she isn’t … and could he please clarify? It’s all so confusing, which is the destabilized mental state of insecurity and doubt where narcissists do their very finest work.

Narcissist keeps triangulating, sneaks out to date younger woman, lies to girlfriend claiming “dead cell phone” and going to “drop off some flowers for Alison” as cover for swim date and destination burger with younger woman. Girlfriend finds out about it and is now the only suspect in the murder of the younger woman.

The person who’s most likely going to prison or to the gurney? The girlfriend.

The literature on narcissist men is so overwhelming that you couldn’t read it all if you tried, and I’m not just talking about the scientific research. The runaway success of general consumption books like “Psychopath Free,” “Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist)” testifies to the number of women, and some men, whose lives have been destroyed by this especial pathology. And the pathology is always the same: love bomb, withdraw affection, triangulate, then discard. The only aberration from the pattern is that Armstrong killed Wilson before Strickland could dump her.

The signs are all there in the Austin Police Department affidavit used as the basis for Armstrong’s arrest warrant and in news reports, so it’s easy to put together a map of the pathological abuse with which he targeted Armstrong.

  1. Lying about the relationship. Strickland said it was “platonic and professional” and he considered Wilson a “close friend” despite a previous romantic relationship with her. But an anonymous tipster to APD confirmed that the two had an “on again, off again” relationship, and Wilson’s texts to Strickland showed that she herself was unclear whether they were in a romantic relationship or “just friends.” Pro tip: a woman doesn’t usually wonder about whether she’s in a romantic relationship unless there is sex.
  2. Secretive behavior. Strickland lied to Armstrong about the swim + burger date, and took a circuitous route to Wilson’s lodgings in Austin, using an alley to get there and using an alley to go all the way to the main road of MLK East even though uncongested neighborhood surface streets were available. Strickland was probably doing everything he could to avoid private surveillance cameras or to avoid being seen by Armstrong in case she was in the neighborhood, which, surprise, she was.
  3. Secretly carrying on with Wilson while lying about it to Armstrong. Strickland admitted he had changed Wilson’s name on his phone to deceive Armstrong, who clearly suspected that Strickland wasn’t done with Wilson.
  4. Gaslighting Armstrong. Strickland admitted to a romantic relationship with Wilson in October 2021, but denied anything after that. Yet an anonymous tipster confirmed that as recently as January 2022, Armstrong suspected new infidelities. Wilson herself was questioning Strickland about their status long after the supposed one-week affair.
  5. Continuing to triangulate even after Wilson’s murder. Strickland continued to deny that the relationship with Wilson was ongoing when talking to police, even though anonymous sources, Armstrong’s behavior, Wilson’s text, and Strickland’s secret date showed that the relationship was more than platonic. The triangulation had already gotten so severe that Armstrong now owned a gun and was talking about killing Wilson.
  6. Distorting his own statements to police. Strickland, panicked by the arrest affidavit that correctly portrayed him as the manipulative cheater, issued a statement in which he claimed that he and Wilson had only seen each other in “public” settings since the October 2021 romance, even though he admitted in the affidavit that he lied to Armstrong to conduct a private swim and burger date with Wilson. The setting may have been public but the date was an arranged infidelity.
  7. Appealing to his fan base for his narcissistic discard of Armstrong. Even after Wilson’s death, Strickland was appealing to the public for exoneration. He said in a statement that “it was not my intention to pursue along an auxiliary romantic relationship that would mislead anyone.” This was contradicted by the text message to him from Wilson, by his lying about the swim date, and by third party tipsters. It was also contradicted by his statement to police that he was secretly texting Wilson using a fake name on his phone so she couldn’t be identified by Armstrong.
  8. More gaslighting that drives Armstrong insane. Armstrong was so tortured by the triangulation that she blocked Wilson’s number on Strickland’s phone, began cyber stalking her, got a gun, and made phone calls threatening Wilson to stay away from Strickland.
  9. Withdrawing affection/demeaning Armstrong. Strickland dismissed Armstrong as a mere “participant” in gravel, whereas he was a legitimate “racer.” Strickland admitted that when he rode with Armstrong and he dropped her, he got “grumpy” when he had to wait as she wasn’t at the level of a professional racer.
  10. Blaming the victim. Strickland, with the help of willing news media, characterized himself as blameless, allowing the news trajectory to focus on the trope that Armstrong was a crazy, jealous woman.
  11. Makes himself out to be the victim. After admitting his douchebaggery to police, Strickland issued a pious press statement saying “Moriah and I were both leaders in this lonely, niche sport of cycling, and I admired her greatly and considered her a close friend. I am deeply grieving her loss.” The real person who’s been hurt? Poor old Colin. Let’s give him some space to grieve, okay?

What’s so horrible is the way that Strickland’s behavior has been glossed over by the media. Everyone points out that he’s not a suspect in the case, but no one is taking him to task for pouring oil on this conflagration that he himself is responsible for. And that’s partly because the pathology of narcissism is not well understood by the public outside of the word’s use as an epithet.

In fact, sociopathy, a/k/a antisocial personality disorder, narcissism, and psychopathy belong to a cluster of personality disorders that are well studied and well understood by medical science, known as the B Cluster of personality disorders. Although a person can have a variety of symptoms that make it difficult to label the disorder, i.e. narcissists share many traits with sociopaths, the salient fact is that certain combinations of certain traits lead to very predictable abusive relationship patterns. With the sociopath-narcissist-psychopath, the fundamental trait is a lack of empathy. The narcissist simply cannot put himself in the other person’s shoes, therefore he cannot understand why his behavior is wrong. Such people, not coincidentally, have an almost zero rate of “cure” and there is no known therapy or medication that can heal them.

It is this absence of empathy that is the cornerstone around which the narcissist’s main strategy is built. This is always the strategy of lying. The narcissist, in his pursuit of adulation as he hops from woman to woman, must constantly lie to everyone involved. Strickland certainly displays some faux empathy, another characteristic of narcissists, when he talks about how tortured he is to be so close to this tragic crime. But he never takes blame or responsibility for any of it, and never acknowledges that he has lost his sponsors because everyone can see how horribly he has behaved. His suffering is simply his proximity to the crime, not guilt at what he’s done. This is key because without empathy, you cannot experience guilt. He appears to be suffering when he looks at how this will affect his career, not at how the woman he presumably loved is a potential candidate for death row. As sponsors flee and people in the gravel world turn up their noses in disgust, everyone can see how badly he’s behaved. Everyone except him, because NO EMPATHY.

Strickland’s lies are so badly wrought and patent that it seems pointless to identify them. However, narcissists aren’t necessarily good liars, but they are always effective ones. By changing names, arranging clandestine dates, lying about whereabouts, manufacturing dead battery excuses, and always having a plausible explanation for the lie, the narcissist gaslights his victim. Armstrong was clearly so distraught by the dishonesty–is he cheating or isn’t he?–that she was willing to kill the other woman to resolve the uncertainty: you can’t have an affair with a corpse.

We don’t have the facts to confirm that Strickland love bombed Armstrong, the first step in a narcissist’s relationship, but she clearly felt a lot more for him than he did for her, and it’s not hard to imagine that she was lovestruck by his awesomeness on the bike, his reputation as a winner, and his 40,000+ #socmed fans. To underscore the disparity, Strickland says almost nothing post-murder about her. Nothing positive, nothing loving, nothing supportive. In fact, he runs as far as he can from the crime scene, doing everything in his power to wash his hands of Armstrong. He even “goes into hiding” out of fear. This too supports the narcissist’s relationship pattern. First he secures the victim’s love, then he withdraws affection. If they were together for three years and he can’t even bring himself to say she was a beautiful, wonderful person with whom he shared so much and he can’t understand how this happened … then there was something really, really wrong.

Contempt, the next phase of withdrawing affection, is evident in the affidavit when he disparages Armstrong’s cycling ability. Any woman who’s ridden with a stronger boyfriend or husband knows that it’s easy to have your self esteem attacked simply by getting dropped and having the stronger rider wait impatiently, which is precisely what Strickland admits doing. Moreover, his excuse, that she wasn’t a professional, is crazymaking. When had she pretended to be? When had that become a prerequisite for the relationship? He wasn’t a real estate agent with a job, either, and she didn’t lord that over him. When love bombing in the early phase of the relationship gives rise to contempt, disregard, and cheating, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a narcissist.

As far as Strickland is concerned, he clearly thinks he’s amazing, humble bragging about being called one of the greatest cyclists in the world (but somehow never having been good enough to ride the Pro Tour), and creating a #socmed image filled with self-love and self-adulation. His Red Bull videos are nauseating, so filled with pride at his ability to suffer, his “all body cramps,” his search to find his “breaking point,” and the fact that he’s such a “marked man” in the peloton.

In conjunction with the withdrawal phase of the narcissist’s relationship comes what’s known as triangulation. The love triangle is of course anything but. It’s a triangle of rage, hatred, and abuse, and it’s created by the narcissist in order to tear down the victim and prepare her for the final act in the tragedy, technically known as the “discard.” Triangulation always brings in a third person with whom the narcissist has had a romantic interest, with whom he may have an interest in later, or who is simply someone who can “objectively” testify to the victim’s unreasonableness/craziness and thereby further undermine her identity in preparation for the discard.

Mo Wilson was the perfect third side of the triangle. She was young. She was pretty. She was far more accomplished athletically. She was the darling of the sport. She was innocent. She had an engineering degree from Dartmouth. And she could be injected into the relationship sexually, via text messaging, via meetings at races, and via private dates so that Armstrong’s already crumbling self-esteem would be ground into dust. For her part, Wilson was likely receiving subterfuge from Strickland along the lines of “My girlfriend is crazy jealous,” and similar distortions of why Armstrong was so frantic. Armstrong seemingly confirmed this by calls to Wilson telling her to lay off. To Wilson, Armstrong might have seemed unhinged, but to Armstrong, caught between the triangulation, the withdrawal of affection, and the constant lying, things must have been falling apart through no fault of her own. This is how the narcissist works: inflict the damage and let the victim conclude that she’s to blame (not a good a enough bike rider) for the narcissist’s sudden interest in the younger, more athletic woman.

This process is called grooming, where the narcissist cultivates a relationship to land on as he prepares to discard the victim. Wilson, of course, is not privy to the gaslighting and triangulation, although she’s already experiencing some of its effects as Strickland keeps her guessing, sets up secret dates, is vague about their status, and likely disparages Armstrong to her. Strickland’s grooming of Wilson is obvious to anyone who knows what’s going on; he describes his relationship as simply “helping” her to get sponsorships and learn the ropes as a neo-pro. What a guy! Generous older man, wildly successful in his niche, kindly looking out for the eager, talented, bright-eyed up-and-comer.

The problem with his supposed kindly, disinterested generosity? The definition of betrayal is putting another person ahead of the person who’s supposed to be first. Whether it’s secret texting, secret dates, inside jokes, or sex, Strickland repeatedly betrays Armstrong without remorse, admission of wrongdoing, or intent to change.

That’s because the discard is coming. The only person who didn’t see it all along was Armstrong. The traditional narcissist’s discard is a horrible, identity-obliterating piece of cruelty. After all the love bombing, all the talk of soul mates, the joint business ventures, the promises of foreverafter and forevermore, the narcissist callously dumps the victim and gloriously sets forth on a beautiful and perfect life with the new victim in a whirlwind of publicity. #Socmed status is changed, loving date photos are posted, and the old victim sees her narcissist waltz off with a seemingly perfect, happy mate who gets all of the love and attention that she was supposed to end up with.

The discard is the most crushing moment in the trajectory of the narcissist’s relationship. The discarded victim is left with nothing emotionally, and often left financially destitute as well.

But in Strickland’s case, things got out of hand no thanks to the fake Second Amendment right of anyone to buy any weapon anywhere at anytime for any reason. Armstrong armored up and she didn’t wait for the discard. Instead, she discarded the innocent Wilson with a few well-placed rounds from a 9mm. Strickland may have lost a few sponsorships, but he literally dodged a bullet. Armstrong wasn’t the beaten down, destroyed woman that he’d hoped she’d become before he shifted gears full time to Wilson. She was abused, she was shaken, and her self-esteem had taken almost unbearable body blows, but she wasn’t going to let herself be discarded by Strickland. Had she known more about narcissism she might have been able to change the focus of her anger from Wilson, the next victim of Strickland’s, to Strickland himself.

By focusing on the jealous lover trope, the love triangle gone awry trope, the media neatly deflects a discussion of cause and focuses solely on effect. The dramatic escape of the suspect who absconds to Central America, her cosmetic surgery, the international dragnet that resulted in her arrest, and now, of course, the upcoming trial in which we’ll get to peer more deeply into the sadness and despair of a woman driven to murder another over some two-bit, over-the-hill, never-was-a-contender bike bum who wins races no one’s ever heard about.

What we won’t hear about is the cause, or at least, we haven’t heard about it yet. Strickland has done a great job of standing as far from the bomb blast as possible and most of the attention has been focused on the women, you know, the cat fight. If you could sum up Strickland’s media strategy it would be “Fuckin’ chicks,” with a sad shake of the head.

However, he’s not unscathed. It’s my opinion that his sponsors in particular and the broader public in general recognize him as a Class A scumbag, even though the news story has focused on the trope of the jilted lover. If he weren’t such a cretin, why would Specialized et al. have yanked his sponsorship? His behavior and his lies are so deplorable, made more despicable by his quotes about the “torture” he’s experiencing at his “proximity to the crime”–a tragedy that, in my opinion, he fucking caused. The general public may not know what a textbook narcissist is or how one operates, but they know a creep when they see one.

And since I’m a lawyer, I have a different take on this mess. In fact, here’s another Cycling in the South Bay opinion you can take to the bank: when Kaitlin Armstrong (what is it about that name?) seeks to prove she committed the much milder, second degree crime of passion rather than a first degree felony such as premeditated murder, her lawyers will marshal an incredible array of evidence showing what a manipulative, deceitful, sociopathic piece of shit that Colin Strickland is. His triangulation, his lies, his undermining of Armstrong’s identity even as he side-hustles Wilson … all these things are going to come out and they’re going to leave the jury wondering what too many women already know: how could anyone not lose her mind when subjected to this kind of sick, misogynistic gaslighting and sociopathy?

Colin Strickland is hopefully sweating bullets as he awaits the subpoena that will put him on the witness stand and reveal him as the sick, rotten misogynist that he sure appears to be. It won’t bring Mo Wilson back to life, but hopefully it will keep Kaitlin Armstrong off death row.

Thankfully, the neo-fascists at Red Bull may still be willing to sponsor him, since “misogynistic narcissist” is probably italicized in Red Bull’s corporate charter, and also thankfully, Strickland will receive the dollars commensurate to a great gravel racer, an amount which, in Austin’s housing market, should enable him to live in one of the city’s very finest shelters for the homeless.

And who knows? His personality disorder may even qualify him for a job at the bike shop partly owned by Austin’s other legendary cycling psychopath. What was that guy’s last name again?


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