John Lee Cowell, 27, seen here in an earlier mug shot, is wanted for allegedly stabbing two women at the MacArthur BART station.

BART

Suspect Indicted For Allegedly Murdering Teen At BART Station

Matt Bigler
October 16, 2018 - 2:03 pm
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Mourners gathered on August 3 for the funeral of Nia Wilson, an Oakland teenager who was fatally stabbed at a BART station last month.
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OAKLAND — The man accused of killing 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station last summer made a brief appearance at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Tuesday.

John Lee Cowell, 27, was formally indicted by a grand jury for fatally stabbing Wilson and wounding her sister on July 22 with a knife. He's been charged with murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors could seek the death penalty. 

Cowell appeared in court with a shaved head and in a red jail jumpsuit. Wilson's mother wept when she realized she'd arrived late to the courthouse and missed Cowell's appearance. 

Wilson's family had asked Alameda  county district attorney's office to move quickly with the case, according to prosecutor Butch Ford. 

Going to a grand jury rather than through a preliminary hearing — in which a judge decides if there's enough evidence to go forward with a trial — will possibly speed up the case by 18 to 24 months, according to prosecutor Butch Ford. 

“They asked that we try to proceed as efficient as possible so that they could essentially have their day in court," said Ford. So that’s why ultimately [District Attorney] Ms. O’Malley decided this was the appropriate course for this case.”

Prosecutors have also added a special circumstance of “lying in wait," which enables them to seek the death penalty. That decision will be made later, Ford said. 

Friends and family gathered in the courthouse. Taylor, a friend who did not provide her last name, said she does not support executing Cowell.

“He should be in jail for the rest of his life but the death penalty – that’s a little bit harsh. Don’t get me wrong she’s very important, just like everybody else, she’s a human being," she said. "It’s just you taking somebody from their family just like he did… you’re gonna bring them the same pain. What do you get out of that? Nothing."

Cowell had been scheduled to enter a plea in court Tuesday, but that has been postponed so that his attorneys can prepare for the possibility of a death penalty trial. They plan to draft a letter of mitigation in response to the special circumstance.

Written by Jessica Yi.