It’s a hard truth that some dark crimes will stay cold forever. But sometimes, hope is never lost. MacKenzie Cowell was a seventeen-year-old girl who went missing and was murdered in February 2010. The beauty school she attended in Wenatchee, Washington was the last place she was seen. MacKenzie’s body was found on the banks of the Columbia River four days after she went missing.
Her post-mortem examination told investigators that she’d been strangled, stabbed in the neck, and suffered blunt force trauma to her head. Statistics say victims usually know their killers. Was MacKenzie any different? We can’t dive too deeply into what makes people commit these dark crimes. Fact is – there are many contributing factors.
MacKenzie Cowell was seventeen years old when she disappeared. She lived in Orondo, Washington. The Wenatchee High School senior was a member of the dance team. She worked as a model and studied cosmetology at the Wenatchee Academy of Hair Design in downtown Wenatchee.
She went missing a little after 3:00 p.m. on February 9th, 2010. MacKenzie was last spotted on surveillance video, leaving the academy. She told her classmates she’d be back in about fifteen minutes. She texted her boyfriend and that was the last time she is known to have used her phone. The girl’s father tried to contact her but all his calls went straight to voicemail. She missed her curfew which was out of character.
An abandoned car was reported in Chelan County, near someone’s driveway. Police traced the vehicle’s registration to MacKenzie’s father. Mackenzie was reported missing. The Chelan County Sheriff’s office began searching for the girl using a helicopter to search the area where her father’s car was found. Search warrants were issued for the teen’s phone records and social media. The FBI was called into the investigation.
In the afternoon of February 13th, MacKenzie Cowell’s body was found near the river approximately twenty miles away from Wenatchee. She was found fully clothed but her feet were in the water. Interestingly, a vacant house on sale stood about fifty yards from where her body was recovered.
The autopsy ruled her cause of death to be strangulation and stab wounds to her neck with head trauma. The killer tried to cut one of her arms off after her death. The knife was found stuck in MacKenzie’s shoulder. There was no evidence that she’d been sexually assaulted. On February 25th, there were around 1,800 people attending her memorial service.
The investigation was led by the MacKenzie Cowell Task Force, a multi-agency police group that was formed after the recovery of Cowell’s body. The team included law enforcement agents from nearby cities & counties. The dark crime case became the largest multi-agency investigation in the area since the attempted serial bombing in the late nineties. Over eight hundred people were interviewed by police.
MacKenzie Cowell’s boyfriend Joaquin Villasano became a person of interest, as well as the mother’s boyfriend Joey Fisher. Villasano failed a polygraph when asked if he knew the whereabouts of MacKenzie and allegedly got into a huge argument with the girl before she went missing. But both Villasano & Fisher were completely cleared by investigators.
After a thorough investigation, Christopher Wilson, MacKenzie’s beauty school classmate, was implicated by the police. He became a suspect after several people came forward saying that he had an unhealthy fascination with death and serial killers. Christopher Wilson was arrested after DNA evidence connected him to the crime scene. Even more damning, police later found MacKenzie’s blood in his apartment.
Wilson is still in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2023.