Christopher Scott Wilson, defended by Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, is said by prosecutors to have had a fascination with death.
WENATCHEE — Just before she walked to her car and drove off, Mackenzie Cowell told her beauty-school classmates she would be gone for 15 minutes. Four days later, police found her body miles away on the edge of the Columbia River.
The 17-year-old high-school senior had been struck in the head, strangled and stabbed to death.
Residents of this agricultural city were on edge for months until police arrested a beauty-school classmate.
Prosecutors said Christopher Scott Wilson had a fascination with death when he killed Cowell in February 2010; they compared him to a serial-killing character from the television show “Dexter” and described his arm tattoo of Hannibal Lecter, another fictional character who was a serial killer. They charged Wilson, 31, with first-degree murder.
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The contrast between Wilson and the popular girl who was a member of her school dance team has drawn widespread media attention, and the spotlight is likely to continue to shine on Wenatchee when jury selection begins Monday.
Leading the defense team is John Henry Browne, the Seattle attorney who also represents the U.S. Army soldier charged in the killing of 17 Afghan villagers in March.
Reid Cowell, the victim’s father, recalled a driven girl with an “unreal schedule,” juggling high school in the morning, beauty school in the afternoon and dance classes and dance-team practice with the Apple-Ettes.
“She would never have gone with anyone she didn’t trust,” Reid Cowell said. “The evidence tells me the chances are slim it wasn’t him.”
Wilson reportedly rejected a 10-year plea deal after the defense won all of the major pretrial motions.
Browne said there are some cases in which he encourages clients to plead guilty, even if they’re 100 percent innocent, because the deal is too good to turn down.
“This was like that,” he said. “It’s a significant risk for Chris, but he’s maintaining his innocence, and I admire that in him.”
At the same time, he said, “I’m very worried that he’s turned down an offer that was very, very reasonable.”
The television show “48 Hours” has been following the case for a future broadcast, and at a recent preliminary hearing, concerns were raised about finding a jury pool that hasn’t been tainted by media coverage over the past two years.
Prosecutors have declined to discuss the case leading up to trial. Browne said he has filed a motion for change of venue, but will wait to see if an unbiased jury can be seated.