WENATCHEE — Mackenzie Cowell, 17, went missing after 3 p.m. Feb 9, 2010. The Wenatchee High School senior was seen on a parking lot surveillance video driving away from the Academy of Hair Design in downtown Wenatchee.
Police believe she went to the 119 Okanogan Ave. apartment of fellow academy student Christopher Scott Wilson, now 31, where he murdered Cowell by strangling her, stabbing her in the neck and bludgeoning her in the head. They say cellphone records show calls to Wilson’s phone went unanswered between 3:30 p.m. and 3:49 p.m. — the period in which they believe the murder took place.
The killing, police claim, left a four-inch bloodstain in Wilson’s carpet that would later prove crucial to the case.
Cowell’s car, a red 1997 Pontiac Grand Am, was found abandoned at 7:45 p.m. near the end of Pitcher Canyon Road outside Wenatchee. A search for the missing girl ensued over the next four days.
About 2 p.m. Feb. 13, Cowell’s body was discovered on Crescent Bar, partially in the water, still wearing the clothes and apron she’d had on when leaving the beauty school. In addition to her fatal injuries, someone had tried to amputate one of her arms, and left the knife at the scene.
Police found a 5-foot length of duct tape nearby. Genetic material from at least two males was collected from the tape, and material from at least three males from the knife handle.
The investigation, carried out by multiple local, state and federal agencies under the umbrella of the Mackenzie Cowell Task Force, went on for months. Multiple leads were checked and discarded, including an informant’s claim that two men with prior drug and gang affiliations had admitted to the crime.
In August, a letter to the task force suggested police investigate Wilson. He was questioned, and voluntarily gave a DNA sample swabbed from the inside of his mouth. Washington State Police Crime Lab technicians said this sample matched the DNA profile — found in one out of 1,047 people in the United States — of genetic material found on the duct tape near Cowell’s body.
Wilson was arrested Oct. 6, and charged with Cowell’s murder. He has remained jailed in the Chelan County Regional Justice Center since then, represented first by Chelan County Public Defender Keith Howard and now by Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne. He has maintained his innocence.