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Bail set at $750,000 in stabbing of Montevideo, Minn., woman

MONTEVIDEO -- Darek Jon Nelson, 24, brought his hunting knife to work Friday night and hid it in his hooded sweatshirt, planning to kill 18-year-old Vinessa Lozano if he was upset with how she treated him.

When she walked out the back door at the end of her shift at the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Montevideo, he followed and ambushed her from behind, stabbing her more than 30 times, according to the allegations in a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in District Court in Chippewa County.

Nelson, of Montevideo, made his first court appearance Tuesday on second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, and two second-degree assault charges before a courtroom filled with family and friends of the woman he is accused of fatally stabbing. She was the mother of an 18-month-old son.

Eight uniformed officers stood guard in the courtroom as District Judge Dwayne Knutsen set unconditional bail at $750,000.

There were comments in the court referencing the likelihood that a grand jury would be convened to consider first-degree murder charges against Nelson.

Handcuffed and wearing a Chippewa County jail outfit, Nelson showed no emotions and answered only a couple of yes and no questions during the brief court proceeding.

He told police officers about his intentions after his arrest on the night of the fatal stabbing, according to court records. Nelson told police officers that he was upset because Lozano did not come to see him after work Jan. 8 as she told him he would, he claimed.

Nelson told officers he first thought about killing her that Sunday night. Over the course of subsequent days, he made plans to bring his hunting knife to work "and if she treated him badly, he was going to kill her.''

Nelson and Lozano worked together at the restaurant. Nelson said he had feelings for Lozano but they were not returned.

According to the court document, Nelson is a self-described loner who spent most of his time in his bedroom playing video games and watching Japanese cartoons. He told officers he listened to Japanese music and has a collection of Japanese swords.

Nelson told police that he felt "miserable" going to work Friday, and that Lozano shunned him.

"What are you doing?'' Lozano said to Nelson after being stabbed in the back and collapsing forward outside the restaurant around 8:45 p.m. Friday. "I knew it was way too late so I kept going,'' Nelson is quoted in the court documents as telling police officers.

Lozano attempted to grab the knife in a struggle, but he took the blade and regained control.

A co-worker walked out the main entrance of the restaurant, saw the struggle, yelled and attempted to intervene, but was chased away by a knife-wielding Nelson, according to the complaint.

A video camera on the squad car of the first responding Montevideo police officer shows Nelson standing over Lozano with knife in hand. He crouches down and stabs her one more time.

As responding officers attempt to stop the loss of blood from her multiple wounds, one asks her who did this to her. "Darek,'' Lozano responded. ''Darek who?'' asks the officer. "Darek Nelson,'' she answered.

She was pronounced dead at 9:35 p.m. at the Chippewa County Montevideo Hospital.

Nelson was arrested at the scene of the stabbing and the hunting knife recovered a few feet from the victim. Nelson had not called his parents for a ride home from work that night, which was his usual practice. "I knew what was going to happen,'' he told police.

Nelson has no prior criminal record. Montevideo police had no previous contact with the defendant of any sort, according to Police Chief Adam Christopher.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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