Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

Meet DA Nancy E. O'Malley

DA O’MALLEY ANNOUNCES MURDER CHARGES AGAINST JOHN LEE COWELL

Today, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced that criminal charges have been filed against defendant, John Lee Cowell, in the brutal murder of Nia Wilson and the attempted murder of Letifah Wilson on July 22, 2018. Ms. Nia Wilson was only 18 years old and her sister, Ms. Letifah Wilson is 26 years old. Count One of the Complaint filed in the Wiley Manuel Courthouse alleges a violation of Penal Code Section 187(a), Murder of Ms. Nia Wilson. The Complaint alleges the special allegation, Penal Code Section 12022(b)(1), that the defendant used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife, in the Murder of Ms. Nia Wilson.

Count Two of the Complaint alleges a violation of Penal Code Section 187(a)/664(a) Willful, Deliberate, Premeditated Attempted Murder of Ms. Letifah Wilson. The Complaint alleges the special allegation, Penal Code Section 12022(b)(1), that the defendant used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife, in the Attempted Murder of Ms. Letifah Wilson. The Complaint also alleges the special allegation, Penal Code Section 12022.7(a), that the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury upon Ms. Letifah Wilson.

The Complaint alleges that the defendant has suffered two prior felony convictions occurring in Contra Costa County. The first prior conviction alleged is that the defendant was previously convicted of Robbery, a violation of 211 of the Penal Code, on October 16, 2016 for which he was sent to State Prison. The second prior conviction alleged is that the defendant was previously convicted of a violation of 245(a)(1), on May 25, 2012 for which he received Probation.

Counts One and Two each carry a term of life in prison. The prior felony convictions double the life terms and also add five (5) years additional time to his sentence.

The vicious, brutal and ruthless murder of Ms. Nia Wilson and the attempted murder of her sister, Ms. Letifah Wilson has shocked the community and the nation. The Complaint alleges the crimes that can be proved at this time. However, the investigation continues. If there is evidence uncovered that this defendant murdered and attempted to murder these two young African American women because of their race or any other factor as outlined in the Hate Crime Statutes, the Complaint will be amended to allege the Hate Crimes.

The District Attorney has assigned a special prosecution team to handle this case. Assistant District Attorney Amilcar “Butch” Ford will vertically prosecute the case and be assisted by consultants from our Victim-Witness Assistance Division to support the family through the court process.

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Download press release as a PDF

Contact: ADA Teresa Drenick //Teresa.Drenick@acgov.org // (510) 272-6280

Posted on Jul 26, 2018