Nia Wilson’s Alleged Killer Found Fit to Stand Trial

John Lee Cowell is charged with stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson and her sister on BART.

BART identified John Lee Cowell as the suspect in the fatal stabbing at MacArthur station while searching for him in July 2018. (Photo courtesy BART)

The man charged with fatally stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson is fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge put the trial of John Lee Cowell, who is charged with the murder of Wilson and attempted murder of her sister last July, on hold in December until psychiatrists were able to evaluate him. 

Cowell is accused of stabbing Wilson and her 26-year-old sister, Latifah, at the McArthur BART station on July 22. The 28-year-old allegedly fled after the unprovoked attack, setting off a short police hunt for him.

Defense attorney Christina Moore previously reported that Cowell said “that don’t conform to reality” and that he has “delusions outside what is normal.” Cowell has been placed on psychiatric hold more than 20 times and was treated for mental illness at two California mental institutions dating back to 2012. His family previously said they have had to place restraining orders against Cowell and that he has not received treatment for bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Wilson’s family argued that Cowell fleeing and changing clothes to throw off police shows his competency. They have also pushed for Cowell, who is white, to be charged with a hate crime against Wilson, who was Black.

The official results on Cowell’s competency were mixed but enough to resume the trial. One psychiatrist found him incompetent, one didn’t reach a conclusion, but a third said he was mentally competent to stand trial. 

“No ruling has been made about what John’s mental state was at the time of the alleged offense. That is a separate, distinct question.” Moore said on Wednesday. “We all know that mental illness changes over time. How someone’s illness presents today is not necessarily how it will present tomorrow.”

Cowell is scheduled to appear in court to enter a plea on Aug. 2, Bay City News reports.

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