Suspect charged in deadly BART stabbing of Nia Wilson

A 27-year-old transient was charged today with murder and premeditated attempted murder for the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson and the stabbing of her sister at the MacArthur BART station on Sunday night.

John Lee Cowell, who was arrested at the Pleasant Hill BART station on Monday evening, is scheduled to be arraigned on those charges at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland at 2 p.m. today.

Wilson and Letifah Wilson, her 26-year-old sister, were stabbed at the MacArthur station at 9:36 p.m. Sunday, BART officials said.

BART police Officer Russell Medeiros wrote in a probable cause statement that video surveillance at the MacArthur station shows Cowell "stabbing the two victims and then running off."

Cowell discarded a backpack and his sweatshirt at the parking structure at the station and when officers recovered it they found several items with his name and date of birth, Medeiros wrote.

Prosecutors allege that Cowell was convicted of second-degree robbery in Contra Costa County on Oct. 12, 2016, and of assault with a deadly weapon in Contra Costa County on May 25, 2012.

Cowell's 2016 conviction apparently is from an incident shortly after 5 p.m. on May 27, 2016, in which El Cerrito police say he stole several items from the Lucky Supermarkets store at the El Cerrito Plaza and pulled a replica gun on a security guard who tried to stop him.

Officers then arrested him at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station, police said. El Cerrito police said that about a month earlier, at 4:27 a.m. on April 26, 2016, officers responded to the Safeway grocery store at 11450 San Pablo Ave. after receiving a report that a habitual shoplifter was outside
the store waiting for it to open. They contacted Cowell and he admitted he was on probation.

Police said an officer verified Cowell's probation status and then found drugs in his possession when he searched him. Cowell was booked and then released with a citation.