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Montana man pushed off cliff believed bride accused of murder had a 'surprise' for him: testimony

Jordan Linn Graham, pictured in October, is on trial in Montana for allegedly murdering her husband, Cody Johnson, after eight days of marriage.
Jordan Linn Graham, pictured in October, is on trial in Montana for allegedly murdering her husband, Cody Johnson, after eight days of marriage.Michael Gallacher / The Missoulian

A Montana man whose newlywed wife pushed him to his death off a cliff said on the morning he died that he'd canceled plans to go kayaking and golfing because his wife told him she had a "surprise" for him, his father-in-law and a friend both testified Wednesday.

Prosecutors also introduced evidence they said suggested that Jordan Linn Graham, 22, blindfolded her husband of eight days, Cody Johnson, who fell 200 feet off a cliff in Glacier National Park on July 7.

Graham has admitted she shoved Johnson during what she has described as an argument, but she has insisted it was self-defense. She has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree murder charges and to making false statements.

But federal prosecutors contend she meant to kill Johnson and had confided in text messages to a friend that she was unhappy in their marriage.

Johnson's father-in-law Stephen Rutledge — Graham's stepfather — told jurors in U.S. District Court in Missoula that he chatted with the decased about going kayaking on the morning of July 7, The Missoulian newspaper reported.

Johnson said he'd decided not to go that day because Graham had mentioned that she had a "surprise" for him.

Rutledge's account was backed up by the testimony of Eddie Alberto Colon, who testified Wednesday that his friend Johnson called off a round of golf for the same reason: that his wife had a surprise for him.

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Flathead County Deputy Coroner Richard Sine, meanwhile, testified that a black piece of cloth, which may have been used to blindfold Johnson, was found near his body — closer even than one of his shoes. Jurors were shown a photo of the cloth.

Sine said Johnson had an 8-inch fracture on his forehead and wasn't wearing a wedding ring.

Jurors also heard from Johnson's mother, whose testimony supported the idea, put forth by friends and family members, that Johnson was much more in love with Graham than vice versa.

"I always wanted to be a grandma," Sherry Johnson said through tears. "And he was excited about that, too."

Brad Blasdel, a close friend, testified that Johnson was "infatuated" with Jordan. But "it seemed one-sided," he said.

And another friend, Cameron Fredrickson, testified that he never thought the marriage would work out.

When Johnson went missing, "I actually broke into their house ... because this whole story is not like Cody," Fredrickson said. "It made me feel like Jordan had something to do with Cody missing."

Fredrickson said he was looking for evidence to incriminate Graham, looking bloody rags, weapons or a body. He didn't find anything, he said.

Besides the murder charges, Graham is also charged with making false statements because she told friends, family — and police — that she last saw Johnson alive as he drove off with a friend. She allegedly created a dummy email account to send a message to herself, signed "Tony," saying he had fallen to his death while hiking.

After she reported having "found" Johnson four days later, she said she knew where to look because that's where her husband liked to hang out with his "car buddies," prosecutors have said.

Jessica DeVera of NBC News, in Missoula, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Tears at trial of Montana newlywed accused of pushing husband off cliff