Darek Nelson of Montevideo will stand trial on a first-degree murder charge that carries a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of release.
The West Central Tribune reports a district judge’s ruling filed Monday denies a petition by the 25-year-old Nelson to plead guilty to a lesser, second-degree murder charge for the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Vinessa Lozano on January 13th in Montevideo.
District Judge Dwayne Knutsen found that there was not a sufficient basis for the court to accept a plea to second-degree murder over the objection of the prosecution.
Defense attorney Greg Holmstrom had argued that Nelson’s post-arrest diagnosis of the development disorder Asperger’s syndrome would allow the court to accept a plea to a lesser offense.
In the recent order, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to go forward against Nelson with first- and second-degree murder and second-degree assault charges.
The complaint charges that Nelson attacked Lozano with a hunting knife as they left their work at the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Montevideo. Nelson allegedly was upset that Lozano had not returned his interest in her.