Nia Wilson Murder: Where is John Lee Cowell Now?

On a regular train ride home in 2018, Nia Wilson was publicly killed in Oakland, California. Shocked and left in disbelief, her family members and friends tried to understand the motive behind the tragedy. In the episode titled ‘Nia Wilson’ of Lifetime’s ‘#TextMeWhenYouGetHome,’ we get a detailed glimpse into the gruesome attack on Nia and the investigation that followed. It also includes interviews with the victim’s family members, who share their views and feelings about the incident.

How Did Nia Wilson Die?

Born on November 10, 1999, to Ansar El Muhammad and Alicia Grayson, Nia Daney Wilson was the youngest of her six sisters — Malika Harris, Letifah Wilson, Nishiya Wilson, Tashiya Wilson — and two brothers. She went to Dewey Academy, where she was a cheerleader and dreamed of being a rapper and owning a dance studio someday. She was even in a music group called “Girlz N The Hood” with her cousins. Besides that, she was also talented when it came to makeup and was given the nickname PG, which stood for “pretty girl.”

Growing up with a loving family and in a sheltered environment, Nia lived with her father, Ansar, in Oakland, California, after her parents got separated on friendly terms. She was close with everyone in her family, especially her sisters Tashiya and Letifah Wilson, with whom she used to hang out and chill on a regular basis. With graduation right around the corner, she enjoyed her final free summer in 2018, socializing in the Bay Area of Oakland, mostly with Tashiya.

On the fateful night of July 22, 2018, Nia Wilson was out with Tashiya and Letifah, who decided to board BART to return home from a party at their aunt’s in Concord, California, around 9 pm. However, while transferring trains at MacArthur station, around 9:30 pm, Nia got stabbed twice in the neck while Letifah got stabbed once in the neck from behind right before boarding the train in front of Tashiya. A few minutes later, while Letifah was rushed to the hospital for recovery, the 18-year-old was declared dead by the authorities, who wasted no time in beginning the investigation and looking for the perpetrator.

Who Killed Nia Wilson?

After collecting all the evidence from the crime scene and taking the necessary measures, the investigators began questioning witnesses and went through the surveillance footage of the MacArthur Station and the surrounding areas, looking for the culprit. Upon spotting him in the footage, the authorities followed him through the surveillance footage of the area and watched him rush out of the scene of the crime and change his clothes to board a bus back home. Thanks to the security cameras, only hours into the investigation, they even discovered some of his belongings, including his identity card, which helped them identify his name — John Lee Cowell.

In the meanwhile, the murder of Nia Wilson stirred up quite an uproar in mainstream media as several hashtags like #NiaWilson, #SayHerName, and #JusticeForNiaWilson went viral on Twitter. Many celebrities, including Anne Hathaway, Rose McGowan, Tracee Ellis Ross, Bruno Mars, Viola Davis, Common, Janelle Monae, and Jada Pinkett Smith, also took to social media to comment on the tragic incident that shook the entire nation. According to popular opinion and the victim’s family, the crime was racially motivated as John was reportedly a total stranger to Nia and her sisters.

The 27-year-old perpetrator stood large even after several hours of the crime but only until the evening of July 23, 2018, just a day after he killed Nia Wilson. The authorities received an anonymous tip that he was traveling the BAFT, where it all had started. There was constant tension because Nia Wilson’s friends and family were holding a vigil for her around the MacArthur BART station, with over 1,000 protestors carrying signs for justice, and there was a chance that John might be planning to finish what he started.

At first, the police failed to get a hold of John but sooner rather than later, they found him casually traveling on the train at Pleasant Hill BART Station. They asked him to step off the train and arrested him on sight on July 23, 2018, for the first-degree murder of Nia Wilson, assault with a deadly weapon, and violation of parole.

John Lee Cowell is Serving His Prison Time

John Lee Cowell’s trial for the murder case of 18-year-old Nia Wilson commenced on August 22, 2018. However, there were various delays throughout the trial as the defense requested more time to review the evidence and delayed entering the plea. Since John was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the defense and his family claimed that the attack was not racially motivated, as per the prosecutor’s claims, but because of his mental illness.

Given the concerns surrounding his mental health, John’s condition was evaluated by three court-appointed doctors. All three evaluations turned out to be different — one found him competent, one found him incompetent, and the last one could not come to any conclusion. Despite the inconsistent results, John was deemed competent to stand on trial by the court in July 2019. Finally, on July 17, 2020, John Lee Cowell was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the premeditated murder of Nia Wilson and the attempted premeditated murder of Letifah Wilson. Currently, he is serving his sentence at California Medical Facility at 1600 California Drive in Vacaville.

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