The trail for John Lee Cowell, the man who brutally murdered 18-year-old Bay Area teenager Nia Wilson, began in Oakland earlier this week with footage of her final moments. Cowell was thrown out of court at one point during the trial.
On Thursday (Feb. 6), a former Bay Area Rapid Transit Officer Andres Rocha testified about trying to save Wilson’s life after she was stabbed on a train platform at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station.
“I attempted to keep her heart beating,” Rocha recalled according to Fox affiliate KTVU. Rocha was outside the BART station assisting in another medical issues when commuters came running out of the station screaming that someone had a knife. Cowell was one of the people who ran past Rocha while pointing him in the direction of the train platform.
Prosecutors aim to prove that the fatal stabbing was premeditated, as Cowell not only stalked Wilson as she road the train, but attempted to throw authorities off by blending in with the crowd of BART commuters in the aftermath of the brutal murder, in addition to changing his clothes and getting rid of the murder weapon.
“Evil exists in this world,” Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Butch Ford said during opening statements on Wednesday (Feb. 5). “That evil causes terrible things to happen. The evil, in this case, has a name. That name is John Lee Cowell.”
Video from the gruesome murder reportedly showed Cowell following the teenager from one BART station to another before pulling out a knife and viciously stabbing her and her sister, Letifah Wilson, in the back of the neck on a BART train platform. Wilson’s sister was critically injured, but is expected to testify for the prosecution.
Cowell, who pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder, was removed from the courtroom after having an outburst. He is charged with a special circumstance that, if convicted, will keep him in prison for life without parole. Wilson’s mother believes that Cowell intentionally created a courtroom distraction so he wouldn’t have to watch the gruesome video. Jurors were told not to pay attention to Cowell’s outburst.
Cowell’s lawyer claims that her client battles schizophrenia and that his mental illness triggered the fatal attack. “This is what you need to understand,” Christina Moore told jurors. “This is an incredibly difficult case to be fair in.”
Last year, a judge ruled that Cowell was mentally competent to stand trial.
See more on the trail in the video below.