John Lee Cowell, the man who brutally murdered Nia Wilson and severely injured her sister, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The verdict was handed down last Friday (July 17), nearly two years to the day since 18-year-old Wilson was killed.
Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, a notion which was rejected by the jury. “Today brings to close one of the most tragic murder cases in recent memory,” the Alameda District Attorney said in a statement. “The horrific killing of Nia Wilson and the assault on her sister will haunt her family, loved ones and our community forever. Mr. Cowell will now serve the remainder of his life in prison. It is my hope that Nia’s family feels that justice was served and can continue on the path of healing.”
On July 22, 2018, Cowell stabbed Wilson to death on the platform of an Oakland BART station, and then disguised himself so as to go unnoticed by police while fleeing the scene. He was arrested days later at another BART station.
For Wilson’s family, the verdict brings a bittersweet end to a two-year journey. Wilson’s cousin, Byron Brown, described the ordeal as traumatic, but said that he was relived that the family won’t have to go to court anymore. “Every time we went it felt like we were reliving the moment over again,” Brown told The Guardian.
The family held a candlelight vigil on Wednesday (July 22) in commemoration of the two-year anniversary of Wilson’s murder.
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“It feels like all of this started yesterday, and at the same time it feels like the process took forever,” Alicia Grayson, Wilson’s mother, said. “It’s been a long journey and having the verdict is bittersweet.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” added Grayson. “No one wants their child immortalized like this but the blessing is that they’ll never forget about her.”