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2 life sentences for Minn. man who murdered woman, unborn child

Vern Jason Mouelle, 23, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Mounds View in connection with the murder of Senicha Marie Lessman, 25, of Eagan. Mouelle was convicted Dec. 18 for the murder of Lessman and her unborn child. Courtesy photo / Dakota County Sheriff's Office

HASTINGS, Minn. — A Dakota County jury convicted a 24-year-old Brooklyn Park man Monday, Dec. 18, in the January deaths of an Eagan woman and her unborn child, according to prosecutors.

Vern Jason Mouelle was found guilty of two counts each of first-degree and second-degree murder in the deaths of 25-year-old Senicha Marie Lessman and the unborn child on Jan. 24. The jury deliberated for four hours.

Dakota County District Judge Erica MacDonald gave Mouelle two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, according to a statement released Monday evening by Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

"We are pleased to have brought Vern Mouelle to justice for this horrific crime," Backstrom said in the statement.

Lessman was found naked and unresponsive in her Eagan townhouse by her mother. A bloodied cloth was stuffed in Lessman's mouth and a knife wound was visible on her neck, according to prosecutors. Attempts to revive Lessman were unsuccessful and she died at the scene.

Lessman was 32 weeks pregnant at the time. An autopsy determined that she had died of the knife wound to the neck and an obstructed airway.

Mouelle was the unborn child's father, Lessman's mother told investigators.

According to prosecutors, Mouelle apparently searched "How long would it take to die if one of your external jugular vein(s) was slit" on his phone while driving to Lessman's residence. They also found a receipt for a pocket knife bought earlier that day, Lessman's cellphone and bloody women's clothing after getting a search warrant for a vehicle registered to Mouelle's father.

Senicha Lessman was from Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, according to her Facebook page. She attended Burnsville High School, and worked at a Panda Express restaurant and an Old Navy clothing store.

She was due to give birth March 19 to a son, who was to be named Logan Andrew Lessman.