Crime Watch Daily Exclusive: New wife convicted of pushing husband off cliff 8 days after wedding
02/22/2016 12:26 pm PST
They vowed to love and cherish each other till death do they part. But nobody could have imagined Cody Johnson and his bride Jordan Graham would part so soon.
Cody mysteriously vanished just eight days after their wedding.
At first police treat it as a missing-persons case. But the plot thickens when Cody's bride gets a message from a stranger.
"She said, 'Look, I got this email and Cody is dead," said Hannah Owens, Jordan's friend.
Now police suspect Cody has been murdered, perhaps before he and he and his bride even consummated their marriage.
Kalispell, Montana is a country town known as the gateway to the majestic Glacier National Park in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Cody Johnson and Jordan Graham met at a church lunch. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
Cody told his mom right from the beginning he wanted to make Jordan his wife one day.
Cody was 24 and Jordan 21 when they met, and they shared the same dream of raising a family.
Jordan was more retiring, not nearly as social as Cody, and so religious she didn't believe in sex before marriage.
"She watched my son. I trusted her with my son," said Hannah. "They bonded, built a huge relationship and I loved that I could trust somebody and do fun things with my son too."
And some liked the influence Jordan had on Cody, particularly getting Cody to go to church with her.
But others worried that their relationship was a little one-sided.
"He did everything for her, he did everything to make her happy, and I didn't see, from what he would tell me, any input or any effort on her end to accommodate what Cody did for her," said Cody's friend Jeremiah Herbold.
"He put a lot into the relationship that she didn't put back," said Hannah. "He always wanted to hang out with her and she's always making an excuse not to."
"He was madly in love with her. She on the other hand was distant towards him," said Jordan's friend Kimberly Martinez. "They would go on dates and she would bring company. They never really had dates in a long time that didn't include people. It's like she didn't want to be alone with him."
"I never seen them hold hands," said Hannah. "When they were at get-togethers I never seen them kiss, I never seen them flirt."
So many of their friends were surprised when, after dating for a little more than a year, Cody proposed to Jordan, and she accepted.
Jordan Graham chose Kimberly Martinez as her matron of honor.
"I personally love weddings so I was excited to be able to help, but a lot of stuff that we did, I ended up doing by myself," said Kimberly.
"She was excited for the planning part, not the actual wedding. Whenever that would come up she would get kind of irritated. She didn't spend a lot of time with Cody planning it," said Kimberly. "I would spend a lot of time with Cody picking out venues.
"She had asked me a couple of times if she was making the right decision and I told her that I can't answer that question for her," said Kimberly. "I told her if you have second thoughts about this you need to talk to him about it."
When the big day finally arrived Jordan's friends and guests were shocked by what really happened behind the joyous facade of the wedding photos.
"She was kinda shaking her head like just bawling hysterically down the aisle. It wasn't pretty at all," said Hannah. "Like a bride would be really happy like having tears go down her face with a smile looking at Cody. And when she got up there she didn't look at him in the eyes. She was standing there holding his hands and she was looking down at the ground the whole time."
The morning after her wedding night with Cody, Jordan was beyond reluctant. She was despondent and regretful.
"She just said that it was a miserable time and they didn't really enjoy it," said Kimberly. "She didn't seem very happy and I didn't know what to say or do."
Texts from Jordan to Kimberly continued for a week after the wedding, each one sounding more morose and desperate.
"I just know he's gonna want to do stuff, and I'm not really wanting to," Jordan writes.
"Using the 'my period started' spiel tonight. I freaking hope it works. Because if I'm forced to do something I'm going to freak out," Jordan wrote in another text.
Did Jordan and Cody ever consummate their marriage?
"She told me no, they hadn't, that she didn't want to," said Kimberly "She was too nervous about it."
Cody had talked to his best friend Jeremiah Herbold about it too.
"I honestly don't think they did," said Jeremiah. "I think she tried to maybe. I don't even think they had sex on the night of their wedding, to be honest with you. I don't know how to explain it. I just get that sense when I talked to him that he just didn't."
But eight days after the wedding their marital problems are suddenly over when Cody mysteriously goes missing.
Cody's family and friends report his disappearance to police after they learn he had failed to show up for work.
But Jordan is oddly unconcerned, which Hannah notices when she sees her later that day at work.
"She was hanging out, running around skipping, she had ice cream, she was going through the parking lot with her ice cream cone, happy as can be," said Hannah. "Oh yes, very happy. She was actually showing her feelings and she was the happiest I've ever seen her."
Cody had last been seen the previous day at Dairy Queen having dinner with Jordan after Sunday church services. And then Jordan says they both went home together.
What did Jordan tell Hannah happened to him?
"That he went out to the garage and she went to see him and he wasn't there," said Hannah. "She said she seen him leave with some buddies in a black car, Washington plates, and it disappeared around the corner and she never heard from him again."
Police would ask Jordan what she knew about those friends when they interviewed her the next day. Jordan would tell conflicting stories about what happened before Cody drove off with them.
Jordan told police and Hannah that she and Cody were not fighting. But Jordan had earlier told Kimberly they did have a fight.
"So she proceeds to tell me that Cody had held her down while they were arguing and she got away from him and that he grabbed his keys and scratched her," said Kimberly.
The next day, after Cody had been missing for nearly 48 hours, Jordan's friends and family members gather at her house to try to find clues to what might have happened to him. Jordan seemed uncomfortable. At one point Kimberly says Jordan becomes so upset she takes off her wedding ring and flings it across the room.
"I was confused. I thought that she would be legitimately wanting to find her husband and know what happened to him," said Kimberly.
Kimberly has become very suspicious over Jordan's odd behavior and inconsistencies and calls her when she gets home. And the police turn up the heat on her too.
As he left his wedding, Cody Johnson told his friend his wife had a big surprise for him. One week later he was dead.
Jordan told conflicting stories about their last day together to friends and police. And she is under growing suspicion in Cody Johnson's disappearance.
Jordan gets a stunning email from a stranger calling himself "Tony the car man."
"And she said 'Look, I got this email and Cody is dead,'" said Jordan's friend Hannah.
The mysterious "Tony" tells her Cody accidentally fell off a cliff in Glacier National Park while hiking with his friends from out of state. Tony's email reads in part, "Hello Jordan, my name is Tony. There is no bother looking for Cody anymore, he's gone."
"I am freaking out, what are you talking about?" said Hannah. "She wasn't crying at all and she was just showing me this email and I start shaking. I told her to go to the cops and she did go, but I was rushing it, 'Go, move! What are you doing? Don't just stand here looking at me!'"
The email only makes police even more suspicious of Jordan.
"The email that she provided to us stated that these unknowns that he had taken off with, as well as this Tony person, had seen him fall from a cliff or at least disappear, and that she was given explicit instructions to tell the police to call off the search, there was no more need to search for him, and at that point I think she just expected us to just walk away from it," said Kalispell Police Detective Cory Clarke.
Lead Detective Clarke is also struck by Jordan's lack of emotion.
Now, four days after Cody's disappearance, and armed with the information in that email, Jordan decides to go to Glacier National Park to look for him with her own search party, which includes Hannah and other friends and family members.
"The drive up there was her waving her hand out the window, her wearing his sunglasses," said Hannah. "Driving his car …. acting like nothing happened. Dancing. Laughing."
When they get up there, Jordan's search party puts up missing posters and looks for possible places from which Cody might have fallen
"I did most of the work," said Hannah. "She did nothing"
But when they return the next day to continue the search, Jordan's like a guided missile.
"I remember passing so many roads and so many trails that he could have fell off of, and I was like 'What about here, what about here, Jordan? Let's go here,' and she was like 'No, I just know the spot I think that he is. We have to go,'" said Hannah.
They drive to an area known as The Loop, where there's a sheer 300-foot drop with a safety wall.
"We stand there and she's like 'I think he's down there,'" said Hannah. "Why would anybody do that. This wall is here for a reason. It's very dangerous. Nobody should be on these rocks."
Jordan jumps the wall and makes her way to a rock landing where she can see to the bottom of the ravine.
"She knew exactly how to get down there. She did it like a pro," said Hannah.
And Jordan quickly spots a body lying at the bottom of the ravine.
"She was like 'There he is, I see him. There he is,'" said Hannah.
Jordan's search party alerts surprised authorities.
"One of the things she said was the Holy Spirit led her to know where he was and that's how she found him," said Detective Clarke.
She says something else that also strikes Clarke as very odd.
"She said it was a place he wanted to see before he died," said Clarke.
Detective Clarke and Kalispell Police Captain Scott Warnell are among those who make the long hard journey down to the bottom of the ravine. And sure enough, Cody's body is right where Jordan said it was.
"In this pristine area at the bottom of a waterfall with a huge cliff hanging above him and just his body floating in the water there and in a place that was so remote I don't think humans had ever been there," said Clarke.
Cody's body isn't a pretty sight.
"Any time you're having to recover a body that has fallen 300-plus feet off a cliff, it's not good," said Warnell. "So the body definitely had damage to it.
"It appeared to us that the way he fell was head-first," said Warnell. "He had injuries to both arms, to his head."
Friends and family are devastated when they get the tragic news about Cody.
"Cody Johnson was a kind wonderful young man that I miss a lot," said Cody's mother, Sherry. "He was a wonderful person and he did not deserve this kind of life."
"I really wish Cody was here," said Cody's best friend, Jeremiah Herbold. "He did so much for everybody, I never realized what he actually did for me until he was gone. I really miss him."
But the only emotion a dry-eyed Jordan is showing appears to be relief.
"She mentioned now that we have the body, we can have the funeral and the cops can be out of it," said Hannah.
The town of Kalispell can get pretty cold here in the winter. But investigators say mother nature has nothing on the cold and callous killer jordan graham.
People are now in disbelief at how carefree and unmoved Jordan was at Cody's funeral, just 16 days after they're married.
"She was the widow and she's up front texting her little friend she's sitting next to, and her mom and dad are in tears," said Jordan's friend Kimberly.
"While people were talking about him, the funeral service going on, and she was on her phone," said Hannah.
"I was upset about Cody's funeral, but I was furious at her," said Kimberly. "I couldn't think about anything else but what was going on with her."
It was a defining moment for Kimberly Martinez, who had been Jordan's matron of honor
"I was absolutely positive that she did it," said Kimberly.
And Kimberly wasn't the only one
"Everybody was looking like, 'You did this.' Everybody knew," said Hannah.
Including the cops, who had quietly gathered enough damning evidence against Jordan to arrest her for the murder of her new husband right then if they had wanted -- and Jordan didn't have a clue.
"She thought everything was going to be OK. She didn't think she was going to get into trouble," said Hannah.
What Jordan didn't know was that cops had determined that email she said she got from the mysterious tony the car man was a fake.
"Through subpoenas we found that the email was generated at her stepfather's house and that it was created the day the email was supposedly sent, and eventually found out that Jordan wrote it herself," said Captain Warnell.
"We were a little surprised that she would create a fake email to try and end the investigation, surprised she thought that with an email stating that he was dead, his body wouldn't be found, that we'd stop investigating," said Warnell.
Police had also uncovered evidence that Jordan was with Cody at Glacier National Park the night he died.
At first Jordan tried to tell investigators she wasn't with her husband. One big problem with that: The surveillance camera at the entrance to the park.
"And there's a photo matching the car description of Cody's, and you can see two occupants inside and they fairly looked like Jordan and Cody," said Detective Clarke.
Cellphone tower records also place Jordan and Cody in the park that night.
The FBI takes Jordan into custody at her home soon after Cody's funeral.
"She was brought into the Kalispell Police Department, stood in a room with me and two other federal agents and she was informed she was under arrest for the murder of her husband. She didn't even flinch. There wasn't even an emotion," said FBI Special Agent Steven Liss.
Until Jordan is confronted with the overwhelming evidence against her.
"At which point she broke down and cried," said Jordan.
And then she opens up to the FBI, admitting in an audio-recorded confession that she hadn't been happy in her eight-day marriage to Cody.
"I kinda was feeling should we have waited a little bit longer and then got married," said Jordan on the recording. "I just wasn't feeling like I was on 'Cloud Nine.'"
Jordan also admits she and Cody had been arguing at home on the night of his death.
"And it was decided that they would go to Glacier National Park," said Liss. "They went to the park, walked up The Loop, and once at the top of they look they walked across the road and they walked down the Loop trail."
Here, Jordan picks up the story in her own words.
"I didn't want to do that trail because I was afraid that he could fall," Jordan says on the police recording. "And he said he could do it with a blindfold on. 'I could take a step out and I wouldn't even fall.' I said you are gonna fall, and we started to get into an argument. And he grabbed my arm and my jacket and I said no. I want to defend myself. Then he let go and I pushed and then he went over."
Cody plummeted 300 feet to his death.
A black rag that could have been a blindfold was found near Cody's body at the bottom of the ravine.
Lead detective Cory Clarke had speculated that Jordan may have blindfolded Cody as part of a sex game to lure him to Glacier National Park, quoting statements from church friends who were with Cody earlier on the day of his death.
"They stated that Cody was in a euphoric mood," said Clarke. "He was just beaming. Super-happy. And they said what's going on? And he said, 'Well, Jordan has a surprise for me,' and some of the male folks that were there said it was kind of a hit-you-over-the-shoulder -- they thought maybe sex."
The theory that Cody may have been blindfolded could never be proven.
Jordan denies in her confession that Cody's murder was premeditated. But Jordan admitted it was no accident.
"She stated that that he had turned his back to her and was facing the cliff and that's when she went up to him and with both hands, pushed him in the back off the cliff," said Clarke.
Jordan is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making misleading statements.
"Shortly before all the evidence was in and shortly before the case was going to be argued for the jury, she decided to enter a plea of guilty to second-degree murder," said U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter.
Jordan Graham was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison with no chance of parole in a case that won't soon be forgotten by anyone involved in it.
"It's the first time in my experience as a lawyer that I've seen a case like this. Eight days of marriage and ending it with a homicide," said Cotter.
And Cody's mom would like the answer to just one question:
"Why did she do it? If she didn't love him why did she say yes to the proposal?" said Sherry Johnson, Cody's mother. "That's still the question in my mind to this day, is Why?"
UPDATE June 13, 2016:
Jordan Graham recently filed her last appeal to the Supreme Court, but it was denied.
Because the murder was committed in a national park, it's a federal crime and Graham will remain in a federal prison until 2040 without the possibility of parole.