Suspect pleads guilty in beauty school killing, gets 14 years

WENATCHEE, Wash. -- The man accused of killing a beauty school classmate has been sentenced to a little more than 14 years in prison under a plea deal.

Christopher Scott Wilson, 31, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree manslaughter in the February 2010 death of Mackenzie Cowell. He also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, as well as second-degree assault on another woman.

Wilson had been charged with first-degree murder, and jury selection was under way in his trial.

Cowell was a 17-year-old high school senior who told her beauty school classmates she would be gone for 15 minutes just before she walked to her car and drove off. Police found her body four days later. She had been struck in the head, strangled and stabbed to death.

In court on Wednesday, Cowell's brother had a pointed question for Wilson: "You were man enough to take my sister from me and my family, and I just want you to be man enough to look me in the eyes and tell me why. Are you going to do that?"

Wilson did not answer question, nor did he choose to make any statement when given the chance.

Wilson initially rejected a plea deal offer from prosecutors. However, after learning during the jury selection process that 80 percent of potential jurors believed Wilson is guilty, his defense reconsidered.

Prior to his sentencing, the judge read Wilson's statement in court.

"I also did recklessly cause the death of Mackenzie Cowell by strangulation and by stabbing her with a knife," the statement said.

In addition to pleading guilty to manslaughter, Wilson admitted to having stolen Cowell's cellphone and ring. He also admitted to having assaulted and choked another victim, who survived.

That woman told police she was in Wilson's apartment when he squeezed her neck until she could not breathe. The incident took place prior to Cowell's death, she said.