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Graham’s Brother: ‘She Could Have Told Us The Truth’
Day two of the Jordan Graham murder trial sees emotional testimony from family, friends
Surrounded by media, Jordan Graham leaves the Missoula federal court house on Tuesday night. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon
MISSOULA – The brother of accused murderer Jordan Graham broke down on the stand Tuesday when asked if he was still mad at his sister for lying to friends and family about the death of Cody Johnson in Glacier National Park. The emotional testimony from Micheal Rutledge came during the second day of Graham's trial in federal court.

Graham, 22, of Kalispell, is charged with murdering Cody Johnson, also of Kalispell, on July 7 by allegedly pushing him off a cliff along Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Road. Graham has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making false statements to authorities. The defense is arguing that what happened to Johnson was an accident and that the lies Graham told in the days following it were because she was scared no one would believe her side of the story.

Prosecutors also introduced more evidence that painted a picture of Graham's state of mind in the days immediately following Johnson's death. Multiple witnesses, including friends, a police detective and a Glacier National Park ranger, described her as surprisingly “calm,” even after she led people to Johnson's body near The Loop.

Johnson had been reported missing on July 8. In the following days, Graham concocted a story that her 25-year-old husband of eight days had gone off with friends and had not returned. As the investigation into Johnson’s death continued, Graham created an email account to try and confuse authorities, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean. On July 10 an email account was created from the IP address at Graham’s parents’ home. From that account, Graham allegedly sent herself an email under the name “Tony,” which she later showed police. The email said Johnson was dead and that the police should stop searching for him.

On July 11, Graham and some friends from her church went to the park and she found Johnson’s body floating in a shallow pool of water far below the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The discovery further raised suspicions.

Rutledge, 16, was standing near Graham when she discovered the body last summer. In court on Tuesday, Rutledge described an emotional scene surrounding the discovery. The night before, on July 10, Graham and her family had gone to The Loop looking for Cody but gave up because it was getting dark. They returned to the area on July 11 and Graham stood on a high cliff, near where the incident took place.

“She claimed she couldn't see anything but she had a feeling,” Rutledge recalled in court.

Graham spotted the body soon after. Rutledge said he broke down upon seeing the body but, according to multiple witnesses, Graham calmly walked away. Graham then drove to the Lake McDonald Lodge to get help. There she met with Park Ranger Steve Powers who said Graham was “calm, without emotion.”

“I thought that it was odd she knew where to find the body and I asked about it,” Powers said Tuesday on the witness stand. “She said it was a place he wanted to see before (Johnson) died.”

Prosecutors also called on testimony from Hannah Sherrill, a friend who was with Graham when she found the body. Sherrill testified that as Graham left the park late on the night of July 11 she said things that raised suspicions about what happened to Johnson.

“She said 'now that we have the body we can have the funeral and the cops can be out of it,'” Sherrill said.

Sherrill was crying while driving Johnson's car, which Graham and her friends used to go to the park to search for her missing husband. As Sherrill drove, her speed fluctuated greatly.

“(Graham) said 'don't speed, this isn't my car... But now it is,'” Sherrill recalled.

On Monday, the first day of trial, a jury of eight men and six women, including two alternates, heard testimony and saw evidence that suggested Graham had been second-guessing her nascent marriage and was under duress as she tried to grapple with the situation.

A flurry of text messages read to jurors depicts a woman who almost instantly regretted her decision to marry Johnson. On the evening that Johnson fell to his death, she texted her close friend and maid-of-honor that she intended to discuss her misgivings with her husband, warning her friend ominously that if she didn’t hear from her later that night something had happened.

Late that night, she sent additional text messages to her friend stating that she was "freaking out" and suggesting that something had happened.

She eventually admitted her role in Johnson’s death to an FBI agent after she was confronted with a photograph depicting her husband’s car, with a man and a woman inside the gates of Glacier Park. She maintains the fall was an accident, and that she spun a web of deception because she didn't think anyone would believe the truth.

Late in the day Tuesday, prosecutors also submitted new evidence; three photos of a cloth found near Johnson's body, that some believe is evidence Graham tried to blindfold her husband before pushing him to his death. Federal investigators reportedly had DNA tests done on the cloth last month. Prosecutors tried to submit the actual cloth but it was denied after defense attorney Michael Donahoe argued that any DNA evidence linked to the item could be null because it wasn't put in a proper evidence bag at the scene.

But the most dramatic moment of Tuesday's trial was the emotional testimony by Graham's younger brother. During cross examination by the defense, Rutledge broke down when attorney Andy Nelson asked the young man if he was still mad at his sister for lying about what happened.

“Not so much anymore, but when I first found out, yes,” he said before crying on the stand.

“She could have just told us the truth,” he said through tears. “She told one lie, then she told more lies to cover it up. Maybe that's why I was mad.”

The sight of her brother breaking down on the stand also brought Graham herself to tears as she sat nearby at the defense table. It was the biggest show of emotion from Graham since the trial opened Monday.

Shortly before 5 p.m. the court adjourned for an evening recess. Court will reconvene at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.
 
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