An Illinois man, who was a volunteer firefighter, was found guilty of killing his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn baby before setting her home on fire, according to local media coverage of the trial.

An Ogle County jury found 36-year-old Matthew Plote, of Malta, Illinois, guilty on 10 criminal charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with the slaying of 27-year-old Melissa Lamesch in November 2020. Prosecutors argued that Plote, who was in an “on and off” relationship with Lamesch, strangled his girlfriend and torched her Mount Morris home just days before her baby boy’s due date.

After a week of testimony, the jury deliberated for roughly two hours on March 22 before finding Plote guilty of killing Lamesch and her unborn baby, Northern Illinois news outlet Shaw Local reported.

The former paramedic and volunteer firefighter was convicted on four counts of first-degree murder, three counts of intentional homicide of an unborn child and one count each of residential arson, aggravated domestic battery and concealment of a homicidal death.

Plote, who was reportedly the baby’s biological father, did not show emotion when the verdict was read, according to Shaw Local’s coverage of his trial. Plote, who pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was remanded to Ogle County Correctional Center where he has been detained since he was arrested in March 2022.

Firefighter Convicted in Pregnant Woman's Death
Matthew Plote was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend, Melissa Lamesch and her unborn son.

Ogle County Sheriff’s Office

Newsweek reached out via email on Sunday night to Plote’s defense attorney, the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office and the Ogle County State’s Attorney’s Office for comment.

On November 25, 2020, firefighters responding to reports of a house fire discovered Lamesch’s body on the kitchen floor of the home. During a recorded interview with investigators, Plote admitted to being at Lamesch’s home the day she was found dead and said he had “no intention of hurting Melissa,” according to local station WIFR.

While Plote has not offered a motive, prosecutors alleged that he did not want anything to do with the unborn baby and had asked Lamesch about getting an abortion, according to local media coverage of the trial last week.

During closing arguments on Friday, defense attorney John Kopp maintained that Plote is innocent of all the charges against him.

“He didn’t do anything. He is innocent,” Kopp said. “You can’t hold my client’s silence against him. This is a very emotional case. Your decision needs to be based on facts, not emotions.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kruse had urged jurors to hand down a guilty verdict.

“This was a violent sexual encounter,” Kruse said. “There was blunt force trauma to her head before her death. She fought back. He’s the one that strangled the life out of her. Nobody else had the motive to murder her.”

Plote is due back in court for a post-trial status hearing on April 25.