A California man accused of stabbing and killing Nia Wilson, 18, on a BART station train platform two years ago has been convicted in her murder.
On Tuesday, a jury of eight women and four men also convicted 29-year-old John Lee Cowell in the attempted murder of Wilson’s sister, Letifah Wilson, The Mercury News reports. Friends and family of the victims wept as the verdict was read aloud.
“We’re halfway there. They seen exactly what we saw,” Wilson’s mother, Alicia Greyson, told reporters after the hearing. “And that’s good.” Her daughter, Tayisha, who was with sisters Nia and Letifah when they were attacked, added: “It’s happy tears. It’s a relief that they seen what we seen.”
Meanwhile, Cowell stood stone-faced and gave no reaction when the judge read the decision.
Nia Wilson was killed July 22, 2018 as she and her older sister, Letifah, were changing trains at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland. Cowell, who had recently been paroled, attacked both women from behind with a knife.
Nia Wilson bled out on the platform after being slashed in the neck. Her sister was also stabbed, but survived her injuries.
According to local station KRON 4, much of the attack was captured by BART’s surveillance cameras and the tape was repeatedly played in court.
At trial, the defense argued that Cowell, a known transient with a history of violence and mental illness, attacked the young women because he believed they were “aliens” and/or gang members who attacked his grandmother.
The defendant has pleaded not guilty to his crime by reason of insanity. Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford hasn’t disputed that Cowell is emotionally disturbed, but argued his illness did not play a role in the stabbing attack.
“The evidence only shows that this was planned,” Ford said, pointing to surveillance video from the train ride, the attack itself and Mr. Cowell’s behavior after the stabbings.
“Evil exists in this world and cause terrible things to happen to innocent people,” the prosecutor added. “All of those things came together at the MacArthur BART station. Evil in this case has a name, and its name is John Lee Cowell.”
Jurors on Tuesday also convicted Cowell on special circumstances that he attacked Nia and Letifah while “lying in wait.” At trial, prosecutors argued Cowell had watched and waited for the two young women, following them onto a train from Concord to Oakland.
The suspect, prosecutors said, was armed with a knife in his book bag but slipped the weapon into his pocket while aboard the train. He followed the sisters after they got off at MacArthur, grabbing the knife from his pants before stabbing the victims “when they were most vulnerable.”
Because Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, a sanity phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, according to The Mercury News. A jury (the same jury that convicted him) will decide if the suspect was sane or not when he attacked the two Wilson sisters.
Cowell faces life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
Watch more in the video below.