Crime Pulse
Nia Wilson and a Bart map via Kron4 news
Kron4 News

Woman Killed on BART Train, Murderer Pleads Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Oakland, California—It took an Alameda County jury less than three hours to reach a verdict during the Nia Wilson murder trial on Tuesday afternoon.

Nia and her sister were attacked on a BART train in 2018 by John Lee Cowell, who was found guilty of all charges: attempted murder, lying in wait and first-degree murder.

However, the deliberations aren’t quite over yet, as Cowell pleaded not guilty to the murder by reason of insanity.

Her Sister Survived, Nia Didn’t

On July 22, 2018, Nia Wilson, 18, and her sister, Letifah Wilson, were attacked by John Lee Cowell on a BART train. Nia died within minutes of her throat being slashed. Letifah recovered from being stabbed in the neck.

Officials obtained a 26-minute surveillance video that shows Cowell following the women after riding the same train together. Then, he attacks them while they are stepping onto a different train. There had been no interaction between them and Cowell before then.

Cowell claims that insanity is what prompted him to attack the two women that day. Not everyone is buying his story.

Related: How to Keep Yourself Safe During a Night Out

Cowell Pleads Insanity, but County Prosecutor Claims Otherwise

Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford presented a rebuttal to Cowell’s claims that he wasn’t guilty. He said Cowell was just trying to “put on a show,” especially during court, where he acted strangely and seemed to fake a robotic persona.

“He wants to look crazy. He’s trying to fool all of you,” said Ford to the jury on Tuesday morning.

Witnesses at the scene say that Cowell appeared normal and that he didn’t seem to be suffering from any sort of hallucinations or delusions. They say that immediately after he killed Nia, he hid himself in the crowd, changed his clothes, hid his knife and then caught a city bus.

Cowell Is Hopeful That He Will Someday Be Released

Ford described Cowell’s behavior as organized, goal-oriented, methodical, planned and adaptable. “This is first-degree murder. His goal is to avoid responsibility. Justice demands you find him guilty.”

During the trial, Cowell told jail staff and family members that he was “hopeful” the jury would find him not guilty. He also said that he hoped he could someday be released. The best drug rehab centers might not be an option in this case.

Cowell also testified in his own defense during the trial. He said that he attacked the “black females” because they were “gang members” and “aliens” who kidnapped his grandmother.

Ford argued that if Cowell really believed they kidnapped his grandmother, then why would he hide? Or change his clothes? Or hide the murder weapon in his attempt to get away?

Dan Perez

Dan Perez

As a veteran beat reporter, Dan Perez has seen it all. The creativity (and sometimes stupidity) of criminals knows no bounds—and that’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on crime in your hometown.

When not bringing you the latest on crime, Dan is working in the garden or playing with the dogs.

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