Man accused of killing Nia Wilson at BART station enters not guilty plea, trial date set

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A trial date is now set for the man accused of stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson to death at the MacArthur BART station last year. John Lee Cowell also entered a plea to the murder charges on Friday.

Cowell's public defender Christina Moore entered a plea on his behalf in an Oakland courtroom Friday morning.

"Mr Cowell would like to enter a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity" Moore said.

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His lawyer's words in court today made clear what many already suspected, that Cowell will argue that he was mentally ill when the killing of Nia Wilson took place.

She was stabbed in the neck in July of last year at MacArthur BART. Her sister was wounded in the same attack. Nia's parents spoke about Cowell after the hearing.

"i think he's finally realizing that reality is setting in and as far as what they're trying to do pleading insanity is not going to fall in his favor and i think he's finally realizing that" said her father Ansar El-Muhammad.

Also today for the first time, Cowell spoke in court in a brief, but testy exchange when the judge told him he had a right to a trial in sixty days, but didn't clearly hear the response and asked it again.

"it was very strange and weird" said Nia's mother Alicia Grayson.

RELATED: Father of BART stabbing victim Nia Wilson questions alleged killer's mental health delay

Earlier the judge dismissed a defense motion to have the charges against Cowell thrown out.

Nia's mom says it was tough listening to that attempt, after losing her daughter.

"it don't get easier, it gets harder, because you carry somebody all that time and then like the blink of an eye, they gone" she said.

Cowell said he wanted a speedy trial and obliged. Trial is set to begin on Jan. 6. Cowell faces life without parole if convicted.
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