Jordan Graham Strikes Plea Deal; Halts Murder Trial

12/12/2013 at 03:30 PM EST

Jordan Graham Strikes Plea Deal; Halts Murder Trial
Jordan Graham on Dec. 11
Landov
After three days of testimony, Jordan Graham pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder for pushing her husband off of a cliff just eight days after their wedding.

The deal came in federal court in Missoula, Mont., at lunchtime Thursday, just before her jury was set to hear closing arguments. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy accepted the plea, but said she first had to tell him the truth.

Graham said that she and Cody Johnson were on the Loop Trail in Glacier National Park July 7, arguing over what the defense has referred to as her "wedding blues," when Johnson grabbed her arm. She said she brushed him away and then she pushed him. The shove sent her husband over the edge of the steep cliff and to his death at the bottom of a ravine.

"I ran back up to the car and left," Graham told the judge outside the jury's presence. "I was scared of what happened and in that moment I was so scared I didn't know what to do."

Sentencing was scheduled for March 27 and Graham was handcuffed and taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.

Although the deal removes charges of first-degree murder and making false statements, Graham still faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

'She Could Have Told Us the Truth'

The trial had been quick but emotional.

Sherry Johnson testified that her son Cody was excited to marry Graham, the Associated Press reported. She also said she tried to console Graham during a prayer service after her son's death.

"I put my arm around her and said everything will be okay," Sherry Johnson said tearfully. "Cody's with Jesus now."

Graham didn't respond, Johnson testified.

Graham's 16-year-old brother also testified against her, recalling how his sister knew where to search for Cody Johnson's body. He said he was distraught over her many deceptions.

"She could have told us the truth," Michael Rutledge testified. "She had to keep telling lies to cover it up."

Graham's matron of honor, Kimberly Martinez, testified that Graham sent her text messages before the wedding, saying she was getting nervous, and text messages after the wedding saying she was rethinking everything. In the texts, Martinez urged Graham to talk to Johnson, and Graham said that Johnson had a temper.

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