Newlywed faces charge in husband’s fatal fall

Body was found at bottom of cliff in national park

A flier posted in Kalispell, Mont., in July sought help finding Cody Lee Johnson.
Flathead Beacon via AP
A flier posted in Kalispell, Mont., in July sought help finding Cody Lee Johnson.

HELENA, Mont. — A newlywed wife with doubts about her eight-day-old marriage confessed that she pushed her husband face first off a cliff in Glacier National Park, then lied about his death and told authorities he had driven off with friends, court documents said.

Federal prosecutors have given their version of what happened to Cody Lee Johnson, 25, two months after his body was found in an area of the park so steep and rugged that a helicopter was needed for the recovery.

Jordan Linn Graham, 22, appeared Monday in federal court in Missoula on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Johnson’s July 7 death. Her lawyer, public defender Andrew Nelson, declined to comment.


Johnson’s family and friends called for an investigation after the body was recovered July 12 near the sheer cliff drops of the park’s Going to the Sun Road.

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Johnson loved her and was excited for their marriage after a two-year courtship, family friend Tracey Maness said, but his relatives suspected Graham did not exactly reciprocate. She was aloof, did not want to spend time with Johnson’s family, and clammed up when she did, Maness said.

Johnson had told his mother that she would change when they got married, Maness said.

On the night Johnson died, Graham told a friend that she meant to talk with Johnson about ‘‘having second thoughts about having been married,’’ according to an FBI affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.

Just before 9 p.m., she texted the friend that she was about to talk to him. ‘‘But dead serious if u don’t hear from me at all again tonight, something happened,’’ Graham wrote, according to the affidavit.


Johnson was reported missing July 8 when he failed to show up for work, and Graham was questioned the next day.

She told investigators that Johnson sent her a text message the night of his death, saying he was going for a drive with a friend from out of town.

On July 11, two days later, Graham told a park ranger that she had found Johnson’s body below the popular Loop area, the affidavit said.

‘‘It was a place he wanted to see before he died,’’ she said, according to the affidavit. ‘‘He would come up here with friends to drive fast when his friends were visiting.’’

Five days later, Graham admitted to authorities in a second interview that she had lied, according to the affidavit. She told them she and Johnson had an argument, were upset, and decided to go to the Loop Trail.


They continued arguing on the trail, and it intensified. At one point, she turned to walk away, but Johnson grabbed her arm, she said.

She turned around, removed his hand from her arm and ‘‘due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back, and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff,’’ the affidavit said.