In an opinion released on Wednesday, June 22, the Minnesota Court of Appeals officially denied an appeal by Darek Jon Nelson to withdraw his guilty plea in the stabbing death of co-worker Vinessa Lozano outside of the Pizza Ranch in Montevideo in January, 2012.

In an opinion released on Wednesday, June 22, the Minnesota Court of Appeals officially denied an appeal by Darek Jon Nelson to withdraw his guilty plea in the stabbing death of co-worker Vinessa Lozano outside of the Pizza Ranch in Montevideo in January, 2012.

Nelson pleaded guilty in January, 2013, to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater.

Nelson had petitioned the district court to withdraw his guilty plea, saying that it was not voluntary or accurately entered.

Nelson’s recent diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome was also cited in the petition and his  ability to understand the proceedings against him was brought into question.

Nelson’s petition was denied by District Judge Dwayne Knutsen.

Nelson then appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to challenge that denial.

In the opinion handed down by the appeals court, Judge David Lillehaug wrote, “The record clearly shows that Nelson understood the charges against him, understood the rights he was waiving, and understood the consequences of his  plea.”

Nelson had argued in his appeal that he did not premeditate the murder, and that he made statements during his hearing that indicated this.

The appeals court, however, found that this was not the case. Lillehaug wrote: “The facts supporting Nelson’s intent and premeditation overlap.”

Nelson admitted in court that he had feelings for Lozano, but she didn’t have feelings for him. He told the court that on the day of the murder, he had brought a hunting knife with him to work, and that if he and Lozano “couldn’t come to an agreement,” he planned to stab her.

Lozano was stabbed 33 times and managed to tell an officer at the scene that Nelson had attacked her. Lozano was brought to the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital where she died from her wounds.


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