Parolee to Face Murder Trial for Stabbing of 18-Year-Old at Oakland BART Station

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Nia Wilson, left, is seen in an image uploaded to her Facebook page in December 2017. At right, John Lee Cowell is seen in a booking photo released July 23, 2018, by BART police.

Nia Wilson, left, is seen in an image uploaded to her Facebook page in December 2017. At right, John Lee Cowell is seen in a booking photo released July 23, 2018, by BART police.

A California judge has ruled that a 29-year-old parolee with a history of mental illness is fit to stand trial in the slaying of a woman on an Oakland subway platform in 2018.

The judge said Tuesday that John Lee Cowell would face trial starting in January for the unprovoked stabbing death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson in July 2018.

Cowell has been charged with murder and attempted murder for the attack on Wilson and her sister, who survived.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a life sentence against Cowell and are investigating if he was motivated by racial hate when he killed Wilson.

Cowell came up behind Wilson and quickly stabbed her twice before doing the same to her sister as they were getting off the train, BART police said.

He was found and arrested the next day.

While in custody, Cowell began displaying behavior that indicated he may not be able to understand the proceedings against him, his attorney said.

He was later found to be competent to stand trial and criminal proceedings were reinstated after a monthslong evaluation by court-appointed psychiatrists.

Cowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at a hearing in November and his trial was set for Jan. 6.

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