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Court says Asperger’s diagnosis for Montevideo, Minn., murder suspect is irrelevant

MONTEVIDEO — Darek Nelson’s defense attorney will not be able to enter evidence related to Nelson’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome during his upcoming murder trial.

District Judge Dwayne Knutsen gr-anted a motion by the prosecution to exclude the evidence in an order filed Dec. 17.

Nelson, 25, of Montevideo is charged with first- and second-degree murder and second-degree assault in the fatal stabbing of Vinessa Lozano, 18, on the night of Jan. 13 in Montevideo. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 25.

Defense attorney Greg Holmstrom had raised the possibility of calling a defense psychiatrist to testify.

The National Institutes of Health describes Asperger’s as an autism spectrum disorder. It is characterized by social impairment and communication difficulties, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior.

Dr. Thomas Gratzer, M.D., had stated that Nelson shows evidence of Asperger’s “and that because of this, he was particularly vulnerable to being rejected by the victim.’’ Gratzer also offered that opinion that if the defendant did not have Asperger’s, “the Jan. 13, 2012, offenses would not have occurred,’’ according to information filed with the court by the defense attorney.

Chippewa County Attorney David Gilbertson and attorney Robert Plesha, with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, filed a motion to exclude the testimony during the guilt phase of a trial.

They argued that Asperger’s does not prevent a person from premeditation or forming intent.

“The only conclusion of Dr. Gratzer was that because of Asperger’s, Darek Nelson had no prior dating experiences and was particularly thin-skinned when it comes to being rejected by a person he desired,’’ they stated in a memorandum.

Nelson is accused of stabbing his co-worker after she left work because she had rejected his interest. The first-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release.

Tom Cherveny

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

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