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Recorded call between Donthe Lucas, Denver detective played during day 4 of trial

Eight years, endless questions: A look back at Kelsie Schelling's disappearance
Posted at 7:09 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 09:05:24-05

PUEBLO — The Pueblo murder trial in the disappearance of Kelsie Schelling picked up again Monday to begin the first full week of this trial.

The last witness to take the stand Friday was Colorado Bureau of Investigation CBI Agent Kevin Torres. The case's main investigator who said previously it is suspected Donthe Lucas had strangled Schelling to death, which the CBI says would explain a lack of murder evidence, but Torres has not discuss that in court yet.

News5's Colette Bordelon is anticipating continued testimony from Torres and possibly Schelling's father and brother. She also received a witness list that shows Lucas' mother, Sara Lucas, will be called to the stand.

Read the full recap of Day 3 by clicking here.

The prosecution laid out the foundation starting last Wednesday this is not a missing person case. Last week, witness testimonies began including Schelling's mother, friends and even a former inmate who claimed Lucas told him in jail that a body would never be found.

Cell phone analysis discussed toward the end of last week showed Lucas and Schelling's phones communicated with each other and were generally overlapping in the same areas, both never left Pueblo, and Schelling's phone went dark or never

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.

Breakdown of the text exchange between Lucas and Schelling on Feb. 3, 2013

The trial resumed Monday morning with continued testimony from CBI Agent Kevin Torres, who read through the text message exchange between Lucas and Schelling from Feb. 3, 2013.

The morning of Feb. 3, 2013, was the day before Kelsie Schelling's doctor's appointment where she saw the baby. The two were talking about Lucas joining her for the OBGYN appointment. She texted him at one point, "I really did want you to [go to the appointment] until I realized that's the last place you wanted to be, with me is the last place you want to be." She also sent him a message saying to "forget" she is pregnant.

When she is waiting for her appointment, the two had argued over text most of the night and she referenced a phone call that Lucas hung up on her. It was following the appointment she texted him she was due on Sept. 13 and Lucas responded that he wished she didn't have to work and asked her to come get him.

News5's Colette Bordelon said at this point the judge stated if there are messages the prosecutor is skipping over, then the jury is not to consider those and the messages may be admitted at some point in the trial. She pointed out that the defense/prosecution agreed on some messages not being released.

It was following the appointment that Lucas began texting Schelling about a surprise he had for her and texted her "just wait and see for yourself, you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway." She responded that she needed to go to work or get someone to cover for her, but he kept saying she shouldn't "waste time" and just get to Pueblo.

The two are arguing over her going to him and how he can just leave to Kansas when he then tells her that someone named Chris called him, to which cell phone records show that Schelling was the only person to call Lucas that day. They continue to argue when around 5:40 p.m. she texts him, "I'm tired of being miserable. This isn't me. I'm always happy, I don't even remember the last time I was happy. I can't do it anymore."

When Schelling arrives to Pueblo, she waits for Lucas to arrive for over an hour at the southside Walmart. Lucas tells Schelling around 11:15 p.m. to meet him at the spot they usually meet up and that's the last time she receives a text from him until the next one that comes in around 3 a.m.

In the meantime, records show Lucas texted his mother, Sara Lucas, that Schelling was not pregnant and that she had a miscarriage the previous day. The next morning around 11:39 a.m., records show Schelling received a text from Lucas saying "I'm so sorry you had to go through that alone, just wish you would have told me. It was very likely to happen...I could be prepared didn't expect to feel like this now." Torres stated this text, based on cell towers, showed Lucas was on surveillance footage at the bank making ATM withdrawals from Schelling's account and it did not appear she was with him.

Right after that, Lucas receives a text from Schelling saying "After you get that money, pick me up and stay out of my life!" Lucas also received a text from her asking him to bring her car to Denver and park it in the garage at the condo, though eventually her car will end up at the Walmart. Torres points out that her car never makes it back to Denver and her phone never leaves Pueblo. During cross-examination, it is pointed out that her phone was never found and there is no way to know if it left Pueblo, the county, or a completely different location.

Crisis center employee testifies as expert on topic of domestic violence and Denver PD officer testifies

Jennifer Walker was called to the stand following Torres. Her expertise comes from thousands of domestic violence victims she worked with over the last 34 years of her career. She is considered a blind expert, meaning she has more knowledge than the average person about a piece of information/facts about a case, but she does not know anything about the facts of this case.

Walker stated a pregnancy can change the power and control dynamics too if the victim isn’t as focused on the offender as they once were. If that happens, there can be an escalation in violence. Domestic violence can go from emotional abuse, to physical, to homicide but not always.

Following Walker, Officer Chad Alan Sinnema is with the Denver Police Department and has been there since Oct. 2008. In Feb. 2013, he was with the department's Patrol Unit. On Feb. 9, 2013, Sinnema and another officer responded to a call around 6:30 p.m. and went to Schelling's apartment. The officers met with Schelling's parents to figure out what was going on, "that Kelsie was missing."

Her parents told him it had been several days since they spoke with Schelling. Sinnema was informed Schelling was pregnant and her parents thought that Schelling's relationship with Lucas was tumultuous. The officer noticed Schelling's apartment was so clean "it looked like nobody lived there."

Sinemma also contacted Lucas over the phone after leaving her apartment. Lucas told him he last saw Schelling on Feb. 5 around 2 or 3 a.m. when she visited him to talk about their relationship.

During the call, Lucas never mentions Walmart, meeting at a side street, Schelling staying at his house, using her card to withdraw money or dropping off her car at the hospital. The defense questions Sinnema about not visiting Pueblo to meet Lucas and could not verify what his voice sounds like. The prosecution stated Lucas never became emotional and did not say he was concerned.

Detective with Denver Police Department's Missing and Exploited Unit

Detective Ted Binet with the Denver Police Department's Missing and Exploited Unit is called to the stand next where he describes the first steps taken when they received the missing persons report on Schelling. He collected information on Schelling to input in a database and issued a statewide "Be On The Lookout" alert for law enforcement.

A recorded phone call between Lucas and Binet is played in court. The call happened just hours after Binet was put on the case. Colette Bordelon reports that Lucas' tone sounded very calm and matter of fact.

During the playing of the recorded call, Lucas first said he least heard from Schelling during a phone call on Feb. 9. He said she called from a private number and was angry with him. Lucas said that conversation was short and during it Schelling was yelling at him, telling him "stop leaving me voicemails," "don't worry about me," and "leave me alone." Lucas said he tried to scream over her and told her to contact her family because they were worried.

Lucas said he guessed Schelling was heading to California to work at a tanning salon and be with an ex-boyfriend. Binet said he never found any evidence pointing to California.

Lucas then alleged that Schelling lied often about being pregnant and then gave his description of what happened the last time he saw Schelling.

Lucas said he and Schelling met at Walmart. They talked in her car and began arguing. He said they ended up at their normal meeting spot near his grandmother's home. Then he said they separated until Schelling texted him around 5 a.m. saying she was still there. He told her to come over.

On the call, Lucas then claimed they went to Parkview the next morning but hesitated when asked what time. He eventually guessed around 8:30 a.m. He said Schelling went into the hospital alone and when she came back out said, "I'm not pregnant. I never was."

Colette Bordelon reports that it's important to note the cell phone tower evidence does not place their phones in the Parkview area and prosecutors said the hospital has no records of this visit.

After the alleged trip to Parkview, Lucas said they went to Walmart where Schelling got some snacks. He said at some point she told him to get out of the car. He said that's when walked to the back of the Walmart and his mom picked him up.

OBGYN and Schelling's brother take the stand

The OBGYN who examined Schelling on Feb. 3, 2013, is the next to take the stand.

The doctor said she's not medically certain that Lucas was the father of Schelling's baby and also that she could not determine the sex of the baby at the eight-week examination.

She then said Schelling was due on Sept. 13, 2013, and that she had a healthy pregnancy. She also said she determined there was no risk of miscarriage at the time after studying Schelling's medical records. Lucas had previously stated that he told his mom Schelling had a miscarriage.

Schelling's brother Colby was the last person to take the stand Monday.

Colby said he never met Lucas before going to Pueblo searching for his sister. He said the family went to Lucas' mom's home and Lucas answered the door. Colby said Lucas seemed disinterested and disengaged, adding that Lucas provided very little information to the family and never mentioned Parkview. The brother added he hasn't seen Schelling since Feb. 4, 2013, when she sent him a picture of her ultrasound.

During cross-examination, the defense asked Colby if he ever invited Lucas on any of the four or five searches he participated in over the next year. He said he did not. At the end of Monday's cross-examination, the defense asked Colby if his sister and father ever fought. He said they were both strong-willed people.

That wrapped Monday's proceedings. Cross-examination will continue Tuesday.

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.

RELATED:
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
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