PUEBLO – Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense told a judge Monday they likely won’t be ready to try the fate of Donthe Lucas on April 2 as originally planned. Lucas stands accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, Kelsie Schelling, 21, who is presumed dead but has not been located since she was last seen in Pueblo in February 2013 during a trip from Denver to see Lucas.
During a status conference lasting only 15 minutes, attorneys told the judge there are an additional 125 potential witnesses that could possibly be called to testify, leaving them with less than three months to sort through the knowledge or evidence they may possess. “I don’t anticipate we’ll be going to trial on that date,” said Lucas’ lead defense attorney Guillermo Garibay.
“It’s hard because I feel like we were already waiting a very long time just to get to this April date,” said Schelling’s mother, Laura Saxton, who drove four hours from northern Colorado to attend the 15-minute hearing, “so the prospect of having to wait another six months or whatever it might be is depressing.”
Lucas was arraigned in August for the suspected murder of Schelling, as well as an unrelated robbery. A motions hearing lasting at least two days is scheduled to begin February 7, at which point whether or not to delay the start of the trial will be decided. Lucas appeared in court Monday wearing a dark red jail jumpsuit, cuffed at the wrists, shackled at the ankles, and sporting longer hair and a thicker mustache and beard than shown in his booking photo. “I always hope that he doesn’t look very good when he walks in the (courtroom) door,” Saxton told reporters. “I’d like to think that he’s having sleepless nights and that he’s at least half as miserable as I am.”
Defense attorneys also reiterated their preference for a change in venue for the trial, a motion made at the August hearing. “The motion that we filed refers to the overwhelming amount of publicity,” Garibay said. “This case has received probably more publicity than any case that I’ve experienced in this jurisdiction.” The judge indicated he will likely deny the change-of-venue request, saying he’d like to try to seat an impartial jury in Pueblo before entertaining possible relocation of the trial elsewhere. “I really hope they can get a jury seated here because if they can’t, then we’re going to be starting over again and it will just be more and more delays, and I just don’t want to see that happen,” Saxton said.
Kelsie Schelling’s case has lagged in public prominence recently due to the disappearance and suspected murder of similarly-named Kelsey Berreth of Woodland Park, another young woman who remains missing and is, like Schelling, believed to have been killed by her romantic partner despite no body having been recovered so far. “I see the similarities,” Saxton said, “and even just them both being named Kels(ie)(ey) is really hard on me.” Saxton says she has not reached out to the Berreth family, but would speak with them if they so desired.