The victim's 20-year-old sister, Latifa Wilson, was also hospitalized in stable condition after being injured in the attack that took place at MacArthur Station of the Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).
Police arrested him without incident Monday night at the Pleasant Hill BART station.
In this photo released Monday, July 23, 2018, by Bay Area Rapid Transit is John Lee Cowell, a suspect wanted in the stabbings of two women at a BART station in Oakland, Calif.
Rojas says detectives found a knife at a construction site near the MacArthur train station they believe was used in the attack.
As the search intensified for Cowell in the hours after the attack, BART police received a call Monday evening that a passenger had spotted the suspect on one of the trains, Rojas said.
As the group got on the platform, Cowell attacked, the police chief said.
Latifah said she and Nia had no contact with Cowell prior to the attack.
Authorities say Cowell had served time for second-degree robbery and was released from prison on May 6.
Nia's slaying was the third BART-related death in a week, Rojas said.
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A paroled robber who allegedly stabbed to death an 18-year-old woman in an unprovoked attack at a California train station is mentally ill and failed to receive proper treatment, his family said Tuesday.
"This man just came up and did all this to my baby", she said through tears.
BART has been trying "really hard" to reassure riders that BART is safe and that the organization is working its hardest to make improvements, Rojas said at the press conference.
As police still investigate what motivated this horrific crime, here are 4 things we know about Nia and her tragic murder so far.
The suspect attacked the sisters Sunday night as they left a train at the Bay Area Rapid Transit's MacArthur Station in Oakland.
On Sunday, a homeless man died after he was punched by an attacker Saturday at a station in San Leandro, fell down and struck his head on pavement.
Sadly, Nia was killed in the attack. "We don't know if it's racist, we don't know if it's random". "We will bring this suspect to justice".
Relative Malika Harris identified the woman who died as her sister, Nia Wilson, who had attended Oakland High. Her 18-year-old sister Nia Wilson passed away at the scene. His image was captured on surveillance video. They say she loved to spend lots of time getting ready and doing her makeup. "They asked him what his name was".
Police were at the station after receiving a report of a man with a knife.
Police said about a thousand people were part of that march, a planned "pro-Oakland" demonstration organized to counter a white supremacist group that had announced plans to gather at a neighborhood bar. His behavior has anxious neighbors in the Concord neighborhood for years, especially since he recently returned to his aunt's house across the street, Kincaid said. He had also been hit with multiple restraining orders, including one obtained by a hospital in Richmond who told authorities in 2016 that Cowell had threatened workers "with physical harm".