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Minnesota woman killed was 8 months pregnant

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Vern Jason Mouelle, 23, of Brooklyn Park, was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Mounds View in connection with the murder of Senicha Marie Lessman, 25, of Eagan. Mouelle remained at Dakota County Jail on Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree murder charges. Lessman, who was found dead at her Eagan townhome on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, was eight months pregnant, police said. The unborn child also died. Photo courtesy of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.2 / 3
Undated courtesy photo of Senicha Marie Lessman, 25, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at her Eagan home. 3 / 3

EAGAN, Minn.—A 25-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant when she was killed Tuesday in her home in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan was remembered Wednesday by her mother as a "loving, kind, smart and beautiful young woman who was very excited to be a mother."

Eagan police on Wednesday identified the victim as Senicha Marie Lessman, who along with her 32-week unborn son were killed at a townhouse. Lessman's body showed signs of trauma, police said.

Lessman and the suspected killer, 23-year-old Vern Jason Mouelle of Brooklyn Park, were in a relationship, said Eagan police officer Aaron Machtemes, the department spokesman.

Detectives were talking with Lessman's family to try to determine the extent of her relationship with Mouelle, Machtemes said.

Mouelle remains at Dakota County Jail in Hastings on suspicion of first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree murder of an unborn child. He was booked at the jail early Wednesday.

Mouelle, who has not been formally charged, is scheduled to make a first appearance in Dakota County District Court at noon Thursday, according to the county's jail log.

On Wednesday, Lessman's mother, Margi Lessman, released a statement through Eagan police. It read:

"We are devastated at the tragic death of my daughter Senicha and her unborn son. She was a loving, kind, smart and beautiful young woman who was very excited to be a mother. She was loved greatly by all of her family, friends and co-workers. We will miss her more than words can say. We are asking for privacy while our family grieves during this difficult time."

Other than 2012 and 2013 convictions for speeding, Mouelle has no criminal record in Minnesota, records show. Machtemes said Eagan police had never been called to the Alden Pond Lane address before and had no previous contact with Mouelle.

Mounds View police arrested Mouelle shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, about three hours after Eagan officers were called to Lessman's townhouse and found her unresponsive. Eagan Fire and HealthEast paramedics administered first aid to the Lessman, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Hennepin County medical examiner's office will conduct autopsies to determine a cause of death for Lessman and the fetus. The statement from Eagan police said that without the medical examiner's determination, "we cannot confirm the fetus' father at this time."

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

In a Jan. 22 Facebook post, Lessman thanked her co-workers at Old Navy for throwing her a surprise baby shower. The post shows a photo of diapers, baby clothes and other gifts she was given.

"When I Become a Stay at home Mom I'm Gonna Miss Working With Them," she wrote.

A Facebook post from Jan. 5 shows Lessman smiling wide and holding a picture of an ultrasound photo of her unborn son in front of her belly.

"The Day He's Born Will Be The Greatest Day," she wrote.

Mouelle works for BioLife Plasma Services in Mounds View but has been placed on a leave of absence, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The company issued this statement: "BioLife extends our sincere condolences to the family of Senicha Lessman. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement as they continue to investigate this matter."