Fireman Convicted of Murdering Pregnant Girlfriend Days Before Baby Boy's Due Date Then Torching Home

Matthew Plote
Matthew Plote (right) is facing life in prison fter being convicted of murdering Melissa Lamesch (left).Handout, OCJ

A forensic pathologist took the stand days before a jury convicted Matthew Plote of murdering his pregnant girlfriend Melissa Lamesch and testified that the victim had "the most hemorrhages that I have ever seen in a strangulation case.”

In November 2020, firefighters in Illinois discovered Melissa Lamesch unconscious on the kitchen floor as her home went up in flames, according to the Mount Morris Fire Protection District.

Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock said that the 27-year-old mom-to-be was out on maternity leave at the time and due to give birth to a baby boy in just a few days when she succumbed to what authorities initially assumed to be asphyxiation from the fire.

An investigation into the incident uncovered new details about the emergency medical technician's death, however, and 14 months later a grand jury indicted her 34-year-old firefighter boyfriend Matthew Plote for charges related to the murder of Lamesch and the unborn baby boy.

On Friday, a jury convicted Plote on all counts, declaring him guilty of first-degree murder, intentional homicide of an unborn child, residential arson, aggravated domestic battery, and concealment of a homicidal death, according to court records.

Plote and Lamesch were dating at the time of her death, and the victim had recently moved to be closer to family ahead of the arrival of her first child.

Rock and the investigators who worked on the case stayed largely silent on the topic of how they came to determine this was a homicide rather than a house fire, so it was not until the weeklong trial earlier this month that experts explained their findings.

Forensic pathologists Dr. Mark Peters and Dr. Amanda Youmans both took the stand to offer testimony about their independent autopises of Lamesch, during which both found evidence of "petechial hemorrhages on the victim’s face and neck" and "bruising throughout her body," reports WIFR.

The two also testified that they did not find much in the way of smoke and debris in Lamesch's lungs, which both determined to be a sign that she had been dead before the fire.

Dr. Youmans noted at one point in her testimony that Lamesch had "the most hemorrhages that I have ever seen in a strangulation case.”

A probe into the fire headed up by a special investigator with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office found evidence that a combustible likely caused the blaze, according to Mike Poel, who told jurors that the smoke and burn patterns at the scene suggested that the fire had been intentionally set.

“That there was a lack of any evidence of a fire on the stovetop, the facts that the kitchen cabinets above the stove had been destroyed by the fire, either by burning or by falling down and the fire patterns appear to move upwards and outwards from within that area,” Poel said on the stand.

Jurors began their deliberations late Friday afternoon and were back in the courtroom within two hours to announce their verdict after hearing testimony in the case.

Plote did not speak after the verdict and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Family and friends of Lamesch honored the mom-to-be and her baby boy, who she planned to name Barrett, by planting a magnolia tree in a local arboretum with donations they collected on GoFundMe.

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