Routecarrier Murder Trial

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The Nebraska Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal of a Gering man accused in the abduction, rape and murder of a 15-year-old Gering newspaper carrier more than a year ago.

Jeff Hessler had questioned District Judge Rany Lippstreu's denial of his effort to plead to two of five charges against him. Hessler had tried to plea to felony murder and first-degree sexual assault in the slaying of Heather Guerrero on Feb. 11, 2003.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without comment.

Hessler's attorney, Jim Mowbray, said the ruling means the issue raised in the appeal came too early in the case. He said if it is going to be argued it should be done after the trial.

Mowbray said the case now will move forward in district court. Mowbray contended Lippstreu abused his discretion in denying the pleas. Lippstreu ruled it would be inconsistent to allow Hessler to plead guilty to felony first-degree murder while in effect pleading innocent to pre-meditated first-degree murder.

Lippstreu said only a plea agreement between the state and Hessler would avert a trial.

Deputy County Attorney Doug Warner has declined a plea bargain because he believes there are aggravating circumstances that qualify the case for the death penalty.