Hair academy student arrested in Cowell murder
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Mackenzie’s mom doesn’t know Wilson
Wendy Cowell, mother of murder victim Mackenzie Cowell, had never heard of Christopher Scott Wilson before the leader of the task force investigating her daughter’s death called her at 10:47 a.m. Wednesday.
Robbin Wagg had called to tell her that Wilson had been arrested for Mackenzie’s murder.
It was welcome news.
“I have always maintained that the only thing worse than losing a child to murder is to have it go unpunished,” Cowell said. “The next part is going to be facing him in court.”
The Wenatchee woman called Mackenzie “the best daughter anyone could ever have. She was full of love and happiness and made us all very proud to know her. She had a great future that someone decided they could take from her.”
She said that while her daughter was missing in February, she heard from numerous psychics around the country and one of them told her that “a person named Chris had done it.” Cowell said she cannot remember the psychic’s name.
Mackenzie Cowell is also the daughter of Reid Cowell of the Orondo area. He could not be reached for comment.
WENATCHEE — A 29-year-old student at the Academy of Hair Design in Wenatchee was charged this morning with second-degree murder in the death of fellow academy student Mackenzie Cowell.
Bail was set at $1 million for Christopher Scott Wilson, who is being held in the Chelan County Regional Justice Center after his arrest Wednesday at his home. Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan said during a preliminary hearing for Wilson that she found probable cause to hold him for Cowell’s murder.
Wilson told the packed courtroom that he has no income at this time. He was represented at the preliminary hearing by Wenatchee public defender Keith Howard. After the hearing, Howard declined to comment.
Wilson’s mother, Kathleen Zornes, also did not comment.
Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen charged Wilson in a two-page document that included few details, alleging the man killed Cowell on Feb. 9. If convicted, Wilson faces up to life in prison.
A motive for the crime was not listed in a news release sent out Wednesday by the task force investigating the 17-year-old Wenatchee girl’s murder.
Task force spokesman Sgt. John Kruse said in the news release that investigators made the arrest after receiving a DNA match from the state crime lab Sept. 23. Of the time lag between when the task force received the DNA information and Wednesday’s arrest, Kruse said, “We wanted to do our work regarding our suspect before making an arrest.”
When Kruse was asked if any more arrests are anticipated, he said he is “not prepared to comment on that at this time.”
He also declined to say if investigators considered Wilson a suspect before the DNA match.
He said, however, that Wilson was still a student at the academy at the time of his arrest Wednesday.
Wilson was a student with Cowell at the Academy of Hair Design at the time she went missing on Feb. 9, according to the news release. Cowell was last seen getting into her car in a parking lot behind the academy. The news release stated, “Wilson left the beauty school around the same time she did on Feb. 9.”
“Wilson was contacted, along with other students at the school and gave a voluntary DNA sample to investigators,” the release stated.
The Sept. 23 crime lab results allowed investigators “to tie Wilson’s DNA profile to DNA found on a piece of duct tape recovered from where Cowell’s body was found” along the shoreline at Crescent Bar Feb. 13,” the release stated. “In addition to Wilson’s DNA, blood from Mackenzie Cowell was also found on this piece of duct tape.”
Investigators served “several” search warrants Wednesday “concerning Wilson and are continuing to interview potential witnesses for further information,” according to Kruse.
At 8:40 a.m., officers knocked on the apartment door where Wilson lived in the basement of Salon Couture at 404 S. Chelan Ave.
“It appeared we woke him up,” Kruse said in a phone interview this morning.
Wilson voluntarily went to the police station where he was interviewed and then arrested, Kruse said.
As Wilson was being interviewed, other officers with the task force that has been investigating Cowell’s murder sealed off the hair business with yellow crime scene tape. The business was not allowed to open.
Denise Warden, a stylist who has rented a work station at Salon Couture for four years, said Wilson wasn’t affiliated with the salon, but lived in a basement apartment in the salon building.
His mother, Kathleen Zornes, owns the building, Warden said.
Robbin Wagg, commander of the multi-agency task force, said in the news release, “We are pleased we could make an arrest in this case to help bring some closure to Mackenzie’s family as well as the rest of the community.”
He praised “the outstanding work” done by members of the task force but said “a great deal of work lies ahead for the task force as we continue to investigate Wilson’s actions regarding this case.”
In addition to taking classes at the Academy of Hair Design, Mackenzie Cowell was a senior at Wenatchee High School. She was a member of the Apple-Ettes dance team there.
She was the object of organized searches after her abandoned car was found about 10 p.m. Feb. 9. Residents of Pitcher Canyon in the Squilchuck area reported they found an abandoned red 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix. They saw women’s clothing and a purse inside the car. Sheriff’s deputies tracked the car’s registration to Cowell’s parents, who said the 17-year-old was past curfew for the night.
Investigators said they had no leads in the case until about 12:45 p.m. Feb. 13 when someone walking the beach found her body at Crescent Bar. An investigator said at the time that it appeared her body had been put there by someone.
Investigators have said she was fully clothed and she was not sexually assaulted.
Her death certificate stated that she had been strangled and stabbed in the neck. Blunt impact to the head also significantly contributed to her death.
Investigators have said they do not know where Cowell was killed.
In July, investigators released information that a Maxam brand knife had been found at the riverbank near where Cowell’s body was found. “It was evident to us it was used as part of the homicide,” said Doug Jones, another task force spokesman.
World staff writer Christine Pratt contributed to this report
Dee Riggs: 664-7147
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