December murder trial set for Montana newlywed charged in husband's fatal fall from cliff

Jordan Linn Graham was expressing reservations about her marriage to Cody L. Johnson just a week after their wedding, friends told investigators. NBC News

A Montana woman goes on trial Dec. 9 on charges that she murdered her husband of just eight days by shoving him to his death off a cliff in a national park.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy denied prosecutors' request for more time to prepare their case against Jordan Linn Graham, 22, of Kalispell, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree murder and making false statements in the July 7 death of Cody L. Johnson, 25, whom she'd married just the week before.

Molloy slapped a gag order on both sides in the nationally watched case, saying in U.S. District Court in Missoula that "the case will be tried here in an open court."

Graham wasn't in court for the hearing, and neither her attorneys nor prosecutors would comment afterward.

In a pretrial motion asking for a February trial, federal prosecutors said they plan to call as many as 60 witnesses during the trial, which they projected to last about two weeks.

The case made national headlines and landed Graham — who has insisted that her husband's death was an accident — on the cover of People magazine last month. 

She was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 3 and remains in the custody of her parents.

Graham initially denied having had anything to with Johnson's death, telling investigators that the last she'd seen of him was just before he went off driving with friends a day before he was reported missing on July 8 when he didn't show up for work.

Johnson wasn't seen again until Graham herself reported having found his body late on July 11 below a viewing area known as the Loop in Glacier National Park on the U.S.-Canada border, according to an FBI affidavit.

That part of the park is extremely steep and rocky — so much so that it took a helicopter and rescue team from Canada to recover the body. Graham told a park ranger that she'd decided to look there because "it was a place he wanted to see before he died," according to the affidavit.

Graham's story quickly fell apart as friends told investigators about tension in the newly minted marriage and Graham's expressions of regret. 

Under questioning by FBI agents, she said she and Johnson had actually an argument at the park, during which she accidentally knocked him off the cliff when he grabbed her arm, according to the FBI affidavit.

Key to the government's case are the statements from friends, one of whom — identified only as A.H. — told investigators that Graham mentioned during church services that Johnson had fallen off a cliff and died. That was on July 10 — a day before Graham purportedly "discovered" Johnson's body.

In their pretrial filing Friday, prosecutors said those witnesses would testify without immunity.