The white man accused of viciously killing Nia Wilson at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train station in Oakland, California last month could now face the death penalty.
BART police identified 27-year-old John Lee Cowell from surveillance videos in the station and arrested him the following day. He is accused of viciously stabbing Wilson and her sister Letifah, who survived.
He was initially charged with the murder of Wilson, as well as the attempted murder of Wilson’s sister and use of a deadly weapon, a knife. But now a special circumstance count of “lying in wait” was added on Wednesday when he appeared in court, the East Bay Times reports.
According to California law, a “lying in wait” charge can apply when the fatal attack occurs immediately after the period that the killer waited and watched his or her victim.
This count now qualifies Cowell for the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted. He did not enter a plea.
Officials still haven’t released information about the motive of the attack, which a police chief compared to a “prison yard assault.”
Although many have concluded that the attack was racially motivated, authorities claim they don’t yet have evidence to back up that claim.
Cowell will next appear in court on Sept. 14.