When people hear the name Sleepy Eye Minnesota, visions of Little House on the prairie is normally what comes to mind, not a gruesome murder. Most of us that live in small towns never associate major crimes with our idyllic life. The world seems to be getting smaller as drugs, gangs, and a host of other crimes are now prevalent in our neighborhoods. We now lock our doors and become suspicious of cars we have never seen before, or people walking after dark.

Murder is still shocking anywhere

On September 25th, 2014, the dismembered body of a young woman was found in a burning van by the Cottonwood River, south of Sleepy Eye. She was later identified as Amber Lechuga of Springfield Minnesota. A man identified as Miguel Vasquez was found walking along the highway wearing only his socks. He claimed to have been assaulted and woke in the burning van with all of his clothes on fire. Even more appalling is the fact that he was the father of Amber's two young children.

He can't remember Amber's death or dismemberment?

Now 2 years since the incident the Trial is finally underway, it was to have begun in October 31st, 2016. Vasquez has waived a jury trial in favor of having the judge rule. The start of the trial was delayed until November 2nd, after 2 days the trial was interrupted with the news that Vasquez had tried to commit suicide by biting his wrist. The trial was further delayed so Vasquez could undergo a mental health evaluation.

Finally, it has begun

The trial again commenced on February 21st, 2017. Testimony by the deputy State Fire Marshall stated he concluded the fire was arson and that gasoline was the accelerant. Amber's family members have testified that Lechuga and Vasquez were no longer a couple but they were co-parenting their sons.

Much of the current testimony revolved around an electronic tablet that Amber's family found when in her apartment packing belonging for the boys.

It was turned over to law enforcement and found to have Google searches for 'How to sharpen a machete,' and 'how hard is the human head,' although law enforcement concedes they do not have a date that those searches occurred. The trial resumes February 27th. The citizens of these small towns will be forever changed.

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