updated 12/8/2004 2:40:32 AM ET 2004-12-08T07:40:32

A man who abducted, assaulted and killed a 15-year-old newspaper carrier in western Nebraska was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder.

Jeffrey Hessler, 26, was found guilty in the February 2003 death of Heather Guerrero, who was kidnapped blocks from her home. Her body was found the next day by two family members at an abandoned house about 12 miles away.

The prosecutor, Doug Warner, said a neighbor’s report of hearing a scream and seconds later a speeding car were proof Guerrero was “surprised, overpowered, and taken against her will.”

Defense lawyer Jim Mowbray said Hessler “didn’t mean for it to happen” and had not planned to kill Guerrero. Mowbray maintained that Hessler should have been charged with second-degree murder.

The girl’s mother, Irene Guerrero, said she’d “like to see what he gave Heather given exactly back to him.”

Jurors will return Wednesday to begin hearing testimony on whether Hessler should be sentenced to death.

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