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Vinessa Lozano

Loved ones seek justice in murder of 18-year-old Montevideo, Minn., woman

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MONTEVIDEO -- Family members of Vinessa Lozano remain stunned and angry over her death, but also determined to seek justice, they said Tuesday.

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Family members and friends of the 18-year-old stabbing victim and mother gathered at the Chippewa county courthouse as the man accused of killing her made his first court appearance.

Darek Jon Nelson, 24, faces charges of second degree murder, first degree manslaughter and second-degree assault. It is believed a grand jury will be convened to consider first degree murder charges.

"It's hard,'' said Eric Lozano of Willmar, father of the victim. He said he last spoke to his daughter on New Year's Day, and had no reason to suspect that she could be in any danger.

"There is so much anger, hate,'' said Lozano. "It's hard when they take a child away from you.'''

Lozano said he wishes Minnesota had the death penalty.

"Justice has to be served for Vinessa,'' said Robin Savoy of Montevideo, the victim's mother. She and the victim's step-father said they have been overwhelmed by support from the Montevideo community, and that is helping them through the hurt.

Father, mother and step-father alike said no one could possibly have foreseen what happened. While Darek Nelson had apparent feelings for Vinessa, they said she did not have any feelings toward him.

She talked about him no differently than she did about other co-workers and friends, said Robin Savoy. Co-workers told her that they too were equally shocked and unprepared for what happened.

Robin and Dalton Savoy are caring for Lozano's 18-month old surviving son, Carson. She was attending Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Granite Falls with an interest in a nursing career. She worked at the Pizza Ranch and as a nurse's aide at Luther Haven in Montevideo.

"She worked with the elderly and the handicapped,'' said her step-father, Dalton Savoy. "She just had a compassion for the guy as a human being, but he took it obviously as much more, but nobody saw it. Nobody saw that building up or anything.''

At the court proceeding, the parents of the defendant sat in front of the Savoys. The Savoys said afterwards that both couples are supporting one another.

"They are losing someone just like we are,'' said Robin Savoy.

Funds are being established to help the families with expenses and as a memorial to the victim. A fund has been established at the Co-op Credit Union in Montevideo in Vinessa Lozano's name. Eric Lozano is hoping a similar account can be established at a Willmar bank and plans to place donation jars at various business locations in town.

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.

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