PUEBLO — The Pueblo murder trial in the 2013 disappearance of 21-year-old Kelsie Schelling enters its eighth day with testimony expected from the mother of the man accused of Schelling's murder.
The courtroom heard from a former Pueblo police officer Thursday and watched footage from an on-camera interview with Donthe Lucas taken in 2013, showing his statements not lining up with the timeline.
There are no cameras allowed in the building and no live reporting from the courthouse. There are also limits on the number of people who can be in the courtroom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Colette Bordelon will be there every day and will have coverage both online and over the air. Follow her on Twitter for the quickest updates.
Retired Pueblo detective retakes the stand
Retired Detective Neal Robinson from the Pueblo Police Department was back on the stand Friday morning. He was the lead detective on Schelling's case when it was handed over from the Denver Police Department to Pueblo, after her car was located at St. Mary-Corwin on Feb. 14, 2013.
He read through text messages from Donthe Lucas' phone to various numbers between Feb. 5 and 13, 2013, which many appeared to be soliciting sex from people who would tell him hourly rates. During this timeframe, Lucas was also communicating with Schelling's family members though the prosecution points out he never tells them about having her car, leaving it at Walmart or dropping it off at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center.
During cross-examination, the defense points out investigators never found traces of blood or anything similar at Lucas' mother's or grandmother's houses nor in Schelling's car. Despite that, Robinson argued her car is a piece of the puzzle when it comes to a crime scene because it appeared dirty at Walmart in surveillance footage and then clean at St. Mary-Corwin's.
Schelling's ex-boyfriend testifies
Christopher Raybon took the stand, who is the man referenced in trial previously that Lucas alleged Schelling had "threatened" to get back together with.
Raybon said in court that he and Schelling dated a couple of months in 2012 while she was in California, but when she moved back to Colorado their contact was limited. He said he did not contact her to move back to California in January or February 2013 and they did not rekindle their romance.
Lucas' mother and grandmother take the stand
Donthe Lucas' grandmother, Vivian Lucas took the stand next.
During Vivian Lucas' testimony, a recorded phone call between her and Detective Ted Binet that took place on Feb. 11 was played. On the call, she tells the detective that she saw her grandson coming into her house through the garage at around 4 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2013.
"I just got up at 4 o'clock in the morning and went to go to the bathroom. And when I came in my grandson was coming in the garage. And I said, what are you doing up so early," Vivian Lucas said.
Donthe Lucas' mom, Sara Lucas took the stand next.
Both she and Donthe's Lucas' DNA were found in Schelling's car. The defense pointed out that it would be normal to find his DNA in the car, as he used it often. Sara Lucas said she had also driven the car.
Snippets of a recorded phone call between Sara Lucas and Denver Detective Ten Binet were then played. Lucas said she didn't remember this call.
In one, Sara Lucas can be heard crying in a car with Vivian Lucas. She says, "finally told her, well, Kelsie says she’s pregnant, she’s in your house (Vivian’s). Donthe’s acting weird, I don’t know.”
In another Sara Lucas said, "Like I said, I got a text message from her (Schelling) and I had put her in a private box because my son didn’t want her talking to me.” The “private box” is something that hid an ultrasound picture from Schelling, which she sent to Sara Lucas, according to Colette Bordelon.
In the next clip, Sara Lucas is asked if she saw Schelling at Vivian Lucas' home on the morning of Feb. 5. She replied, "No, I didn’t see her. Like I said, he (Donthe Lucas) was in the living room and she (Kelsie Schelling) was in the room.” Colette Bordelon noted that this quote made it sound as though Schelling was at the house.
Retired Pueblo Police officer takes the stand
Retired Pueblo Police officer Michele Ellis-Stringer took the stand next.
She was a patrol officer in Feb. 2013 and responded to St. Mary Corwin Hospital after she was notified that a black Chevy Cruze linked to Schelling had been found. She responded and found that it was Schelling's car.
She said she walked around the car and didn't smell anything unusual, like the scent of a dead body. She did notice a lot of dust and dirt all over the car. She said she noted the seats of the car were pushed almost all the way back like a tall person had been sitting there. She's 5'3" and said she would not have been able to reach the pedals.
The car was towed to an ID bay, where it was locked up.
During cross-examination, she said the car looked like it had been sitting for a while and looked like a vehicle does when it rains and the wind blows, covering it in dirt.
She said the seats were pushed back like a tall person was in the vehicle, but didn't know the actual positions of the car when it was driven. It could have been a tall person driving or just two people sitting and talking in a parked car.
She added that she didn't smell anything while walking around the car and added that if there had been a dead body in the truck, she would have smelled it.
Colette Bordelon reports the prosecution optimistically anticipates resting their case on Thursday of next week. The trial could potentially finish the week after next.
Leading up to the trial:
21-year-old Kelsie Schelling was two months pregnant when she drove from Denver to Pueblo to see her former boyfriend Donthe Lucas. Feb. 4, 2013, was the last time Schelling was seen. Her body has never been found.
The community organized search efforts to try and find Schelling with her family filing a lawsuit in 2015 against the Pueblo Police Department and the Lucas family. The suit criticized the way the investigation was handled but was ultimately dismissed.
In December 2017, almost four years after Schelling's disappearance, Lucas was charged with her murder. By May 2018, a judge said prosecutors had proved probable cause. The lead investigator on the case from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation believes Schelling was strangled by Lucas after he lured her down to Pueblo. The theory would explain the lack of a murder weapon.
Lucas pleaded not guilty to the murder charges in August 2018, and the judge set a trial date for 2019. However, in January of 2019, both the prosecution and defense said they would not be ready to go to trial by early April 2019, because of an additional 125 witnesses who could possibly be called to testify.
The trial was then scheduled for July 2019, but Lucas' lawyers said they had new scientific evidence and needed more time to review it. In December 2019, the judge postponed the trial until May 2020, as a new lawyer joined the defense team. Then, in December 2020, the murder trial was set to start on Jan. 25, 2021.
Opening statements in murder trial begin in case of Kelsie Schelling's disappearance
Donthe Lucas murder trial will begin Wednesday
Long-awaited murder trial to begin in the case of Kelsie Schelling's disappearance
Previous coverage: The Kelsie Schelling Case