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Montevideo, Minn., man facing first-degree charges in teen's death

MONTEVIDEO -- Darek Jon Nelson now faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Vinessa Lozano on Jan. 13 in Montevideo.

A grand jury on Wednesday afternoon re-turned an indictment for first-deg-ee murder - premeditated to the District Court in Chippewa County, according to County Attorney David Gilbertson.

The grand jury had been convened on Tuesday.

The grand jury heard two days of testimony before returning with the first-degree indictment along with charges of murder in the second degree - intentional, and second-degree assault.

Nelson, 24, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon. The court raised his bail from $750,000 to $1 million. He remains in the Chippewa County Jail.

The grand jury included 22 members. It requires a vote by 12 or more jurors to bring an indictment. The vote is kept secret.

Gilbertson said he could not comment on the testimony presented to the grand jury. Nelson chose not to testify before grand jury, he said.

According to the indictment, 13 people were called as witnesses and testified before the grand jury. Among them were Lozano's fiancé, a doctor, and responding police and sheriff's officers.

The indictment means that the court will schedule a new trial on the first-degree charge. A hearing is likely to be held before a trial. Some of the evidence in the case is likely to be presented at the trial.

Shortly after the stabbing, Nelson was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and second-degree assault. Only a grand jury can bring an indictment for first-degree murder.

The original complaint alleges Nelson fatally stabbed Lozano as she left the Pizza Ranch at the end of her shift. He was a co-worker and was allegedly upset that she did not return his interest in her.

According to the original complaint, he allegedly told Montevideo police officers after his arrest that he planned to bring the hunting knife used in the stabbing to work "and if she treated him badly, he was going to kill her.''

Lozano was the mother of an 18-month-old son and working at the restaurant and a nursing home while completing studies toward a nursing degree.

According to her obituary, she is survived by her son and her fiancé, the father of the child, along with parents and other family in Montevideo and Willmar.

Tom Cherveny

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

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