BART Stabbing Trial On Hold Until Suspect’s Psych Evaluation

John Lee Cowell is charged with the murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson and stabbing her sister at the MacArthur BART station in July.

A judge suspended the criminal trial for Nia Wilson’s alleged killer after ruling on Thursday that there is “substantial evidence” he is mentally incompetent to stand trial for the fatal BART stabbing.

Defense attorney Christina Moore reported that 28-year-old suspect John Lee Cowell said things “that don’t conform to reality” and that he has “delusions outside what is normal,” Bay City News reports. Cowell is charged with stabbing 18-year-old Wilson, who died, and her 26-year-old sister Latifah Wilson at the MacArthur BART station on July 22.

Judge James Cramer, presiding over the Alameda County Superior Court, appointed two psychiatrists to evaluate the suspect before he returns to court on Feb. 13. Cowell has been placed on psychiatric holds 22 times, three of which were in the month before he allegedly stabbed the two sisters. He was also treated for mental illness at two state mental institutions dating back to 2012.

In a statement to KRON, Cowell’s family offered condolences to the Wilson family for the “horrific tragedy” and said that they have had to receive restraining orders against Cowell. They added he has shuffled in and out of jail, untreated for bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia due to a lack of mental institutions.  

But Wilson’s father Ansar Muhammad said Cowell fleeing the scene and changing his clothes to allegedly avoid arrest shows that he “is pretty competent.” Less than 24 hours later, he snuck back onto the BART system and wrote packed trains for at least 40 minutes while police searched for him, the Mercury News reported.

Cowell is charged with murder and attempted murder but prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty, which Wilson’s mother Alicia Grayson is pushing for. Muhammad said that “is up to the creator.”

If both psychiatrists agree Cowell is incompetent to stand trial, he would receive treatment at a state mental institution until he is deemed competent enough, if ever. Either way, Wilson’s family must wait until Feb. 13 before knowing how the criminal justice system responds to the 18-year-old’s death.

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