PUEBLO — As the Pueblo murder trial enters the second day Thursday in the case of Kelsie Schelling's disappearance, the day also marks eight years since the 21-year-old woman disappeared.
The prosecution and defense made opening statements Wednesday with the prosecution illustrating a rocky relationship between Schelling and Donthe Lucas, the man accused of her murder, and the defense saying these claims do not add up.
They described the day leading up to Schelling driving to Pueblo where she was seen for the last time in 2013. Meanwhile, the defense called this "a reach" to make Lucas out to be a murderer and began by saying over the course of eight years, these claims don't add up and do not establish definitively that there has been a death.
Kelsie Schelling's mother, Laura Saxton, was the first witness to be called to the stand, saying how excited Schelling was to be a mother and described the last time she saw her daughter alive. Saxton said in court she was not aware that Schelling drove down to Pueblo to see Lucas.
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.
Defense cross-examines witness who was in jail with Lucas
Before the first day of court wrapped up Wednesday, prosecutors called to the stand Ryan Rivera, who was in jail with Lucas at one point. He claimed Lucas told him in jail during a card game between the two of them that investigators would not be able to find Schelling's body.
BREAK: Ryan Rivera, who was in the Pueblo County Jail with #DontheLucas, was cross-examined. Rivera says he didn’t want to testify agains Lucas, but wanted to “do what was right.” He says that before a card game, #Lucas said investigators won’t find #Schelling’s body. @KOAA— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) February 4, 2021
Rivera told prosecutors during the times Lucas made these comments, it was only the two of them during the conversations. The defense focused on the fact that Rivera has struggled with addiction and that he’s a “five-time felon.” The defense referenced Rivera reaching out to Capt. Shelly Bryant with the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office in April 2019, which lined up with a newspaper story being published on Lucas' case. He told the defense he still considers Lucas a friend, but he would not be testifying if Lucas didn't say what he said.
The prosecution then called Bryant to the stand to testify on the truthful nature of Rivera where she says in at least three other instances, information from Rivera led to criminal charges for incidents that happened in the jail. She says he’s credible and has written letters on his behalf about his positive behavior and another concerned for his safety.
She said she knew about stories of there not being a body, but she said she did not recall anything regarding Lucas' mother as a possible suspect. The defense focused on the fact there was no camera footage of the two playing a card game where the alleged comment was made and that there is no proof Lucas said anything about investigators not being able to find a body.
Kelsie's friend testifies
The next witness from the prosecution is Lucretia Kinzie who knew Schelling since childhood, but really became friends with her while living in Denver in 2012. Kinzie described Schelling as looking frail and could tell she was depressed, adding "when someone's happy their demeanor is different."
Kinzie described Lucas reaching out to her about Schelling and what she was telling Kinzie about him when he learned they were becoming friends. She said Schelling discussed the pregnancy in regards to her relationship with Lucas by showing her text messages between them. She also said the messages from Lucas indicated a baby would ruin his life and that it had a huge impact on Schelling.
Kinzie said one instance in December that Schelling reached out to her to have dinner and said that Lucas hit her. At that moment, Lucas was staying at Schelling's apartment and Kinzie said Schelling wanted to meet right away to get away from the apartment. Kinzie said the last time she heard from Schelling was on Feb. 4, 2013, when she was headed to her doctor's appointment.
During cross-examination of Kinzie, the defense asked about the night where the two women met for dinner and Kinzie said Schelling told her Lucas hit her. However, Schelling apparently told Kinzie that her father would come to her apartment in Denver and “beat her.” The defense asks Kinzie, “isn’t it true Schelling said her dad strangled her?” Kinzie says no.
She also said Lucas reached out to her when Schelling went missing, suggesting that Schelling was popping pills and that she could be where she got pills from. Kinzie also talked about Lucas texting her and asking her if she wanted to help him search for Schelling in Denver. “It actually kind of scared me.”
Two more friends testify
Schelling's friend Brooke Taylor took the stand and described the last day she saw Schelling in 2013. She said Schelling was getting texts from Donthe Lucas all that day.
Some of those texts included Lucas calling Schelling a variety of swear words, and saying "b**** I'll f*** you up."
The defense cross-examined Taylor and pointed out that she didn't see all of the texts Schelling was sending to Lucas that day. Then that night, Schelling drove down to Pueblo to see Lucas. This was not the night of Feb. 4, 2013, but an undetermined date in Jan. 2013.
One of Schelling's college roommates, Aly Cox, took the stand next.
Cox described many arguments between Schelling and Lucas in the girls' dorm room. She then said that she didn't believe the night Schelling a bunch of pills was a suicide attempt, but rather a cry for help. She said Schelling blamed her, she thinks because she felt lonely and that Cox wasn't being a good friend. Cox broke down at this point.
Cox also said she helped Schelling get her job in Colorado at Floor & Decor. Cox said Schelling was a good employee until she began reconnecting with Lucas. She said Schelling would text all throughout her shift and have breakdowns where she would have to go outside and calm down.
During cross-examination, the defense has Cox testify to seeing Donthe Lucas drive Schelling to and from work at least two-dozen times. According to Colette Bordelon, the point the defense was making here was in regards to the prosecution's argument about Lucas' DNA being found in the car after Schelling disappeared.
Cox also stated that she overheard Lucas call Schelling fat, ugly, and not worthy of anyone's attention multiple times a month. She said Schelling would "soak it up like a sponge, to the point that she seemed like a beaten animal."
Cox also said during testimony that Schelling was the loudest person she knew, in a good way. "You knew she was coming into the room four minutes before she did," Cox said. She added it wasn't in Schelling's personality to go silent.
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
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