One year and five days after the tragic incident, Darek Nelson has plead guilty to the First Degree Premeditated Murder of Vinessa Lozano, an 18 year old Montevideo woman who many knew for her compassion and her calling to the medical field.
A plea agreement between the prosecution and defense was presented to District Judge Dwayne Knutsen, which outlined Nelson’s intent to plea guilty to First Degree Murder, in exchange for the Second Degree Murder charge and two assault charges being dropped. First Degree murder carries with it a sentence of life in prison, without any chance of parole.
This agreement comes after a second-degree murder plea was rejected in November, and a jury trial had been scheduled for February.
The charges were filed against Nelson after he stabbed Lozano when she left work at Pizza Ranch.
After submitting the plea, Knutsen asked Nelson to explain the events of Jan. 13, 2012.
Nelson told Knutsen how he had hidden a knife in his hooded sweatshirt, and planned to kill Lozano if she didn’t agree to a “verbal agreement,” ostensibly to hang out at a certain time.
Part way through Nelson’s testimony, during which he explained events to have happened much the way Montevideo Police had framed them during an earlier hearing, Knutsen granted a brief recess when it seemed Nelson was not directly stating that he wanted to kill Lozano, which was incongruent with the submitted plea of guilty.
“(It) just sort of happened,” Nelson said during his explanation.
After the 10 minute recess, Knutsen returned to Nelson’s story to gain clarification. He asked more directly, “Did you intend to kill her?”
Nelson answered, “yes.”
At this point, Knutsen found the evidence sufficient to accept Nelson’s plea of guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
After the hearing, Lozano’s mother, Robin Savoy, had mixed feelings.
“Now that this is over, I can maybe start my healing,” she said. “(But) how do you phrase it? I’ll never have her back ... there will never be justice. He (Nelson) still gets a life, and no matter what, Vinessa is gone ... she will never be with her son again.”
One of the worst feelings, Savoy said, was the feeling of helplessness.
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“It’s going to take me a long time to get over not being able to do something to protect my child,” she said. “It’s already been a year and yet it feels like yesterday.”
Family and friends of Lozano are staying close, supporting each other.
“I can’t do it myself,” Savoy said.
At the end of the day, though, it’s important to the family that Lozano is remembered.
“As long as I’m alive, she will not be forgotten,” Savoy said.
When asked how she should be remembered, the words ‘caring’ and ‘wild’ were given.
“I always called her such a spitfire,” Savoy said.
A medical scholarship is currently being put in place in Vinessa’s honor. Plans are being put in place to raise funds for the scholarship.