PUEBLO — Donthe Lucas, the man accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Kelsie Schelling, is going to trial. Schelling disappeared after driving from Denver to Pueblo to see Lucas on February 4, 2013.
The case has already been delayed several times since Lucas was arrested in 2017. On Thursday while in court, it seemed like there was a chance the trial would once again be postponed. The defense team spoke about introducing a new suspect to the case, and the judge decided to schedule another hearing on Friday to further discuss this evidence.
While in court Friday, few details were revealed about this other suspect. Attorneys did mention the person referenced in the report is a woman, who the prosecution's investigators interviewed. The information came from a report filed in March of 2020 by a Pueblo Police officer. However, the prosecution said it was dropped off at their office on January 20, 2021.
Neither the defense or prosecution asked for a continuation of the case after discussing this new suspect on Friday, January 23.
In response to the judge asking the defense if they were comfortable still going ahead with the proposed trial schedule, the defense said “comfortable” is not the word they would use. Still, neither the defense or prosecution asked for a continuation. @KOAA— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) January 22, 2021
Jury selection will proceed as planned on Monday, January 25. It is not open to the public or press, and could take a week or more to complete. Those with the Colorado Judicial Department said it will be a 12 person jury, with potentially two alternates.
Representatives from the Colorado Judicial Department also anticipate opening statements on February 3. That's one day before the eight year anniversary of Schelling's disappearance.
The trial could last until early March.
News5 sat down with Dennis Maes, a retired district judge who worked in the judicial system from 1988-2012. In his last 17 years, Maes served as a chief district judge. "As a judge, I probably presided over, between 150 and 175 jury trials," said Maes.
Generally speaking, from start to finish, Maes said the time it takes from the entry of a plea to a trial is between 12-18 months. "It's rather unusual that it's taken this long to get to trial," said Maes.
Still, Maes said there have been many reasons for the delays. "You can't compromise the system by hurrying up things," said Maes.
In his opinion, the biggest challenge in this case is the passage of time, and memories fading. "The other side of that is the fact that there have been a number of ways to preserve witnesses' testimony, which will at least be somewhat helpful to the attorneys," said Maes.
"Preparation's the key in any trial. And so, I don't think there will be any surprises. The prosecution by this time has determined how they're going to present the evidence in this particular case. The defense has already determined how they're going to defend the case... If you would ask both the prosecution and defense at this time, they could probably tell you what their closing argument is going to be."
Schelling's body has never been found, adding another challenge to the case. "From the prosecution standpoint, you want every piece of physical evidence that you can present to the jury so they can see it... It's not a done deal because they don't have a body, because they still have to prove that there was a homicide, and obviously one of the ways that they're going to do that, I would assume, is by presenting circumstantial evidence about the fact that Miss Schelling is dead... It'll play heavily into how both sides decide they're going to present the evidence in this case," said Maes.
Still, Maes said there's going to be one large area of uncertainty that stands out among the rest during the trial. "The one unknown is whether or not Mr. Lucas decides to testify in this trial, and subject himself to cross examination from the prosecution," said Maes.
It's important to note Maes is retired, and has never reviewed the Lucas case file or discussed it with anyone who works on it. He is speaking as an expert on the judicial system, after spending more than two decades as a judge.