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Prosecution rests case Friday in Lucas murder trial, Defense will begin calling witnesses Monday

Donthe Lucas murder trial resumes Wednesday, following two-week recess
Posted at 1:47 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-06 00:41:00-05

PUEBLO — The Pueblo murder trial in the disappearance of 21-year-old Kelsie Schelling continued Friday morning with a second interview played in court that was recorded by the Pueblo Police Department with Donthe Lucas.

The audio recording of the first interview after Lucas was arrested in November 2017 played Thursday lasted more than two hours and took up most of the time in court.

For a full recap of Day 12 in the trial, click here.

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.

Jury hears second recorded interview:

A second recorded interview between the Pueblo Police Department and Donthe Lucas played for the courtroom Friday morning. This interview took place one day after the jailhouse interview heard Thursday.

Sgt. Cody Wager and Detective Randy Purvis conducted this interview with Lucas after his arrest at Denver International Airport in November 2017.

News5's Andy Koen reports the biggest takeaway from this audio recording was that Lucas denied being involved in the death or disappearance of Schelling while they told him his and Schelling's phones were hitting off a tower in Beulah the night she disappeared.

The police also asked Lucas why Schelling's phone was in her car at the time he withdrew money at the ATM, but he said he either didn't know or was under the influence, claiming he did drugs and was drinking the night she disappeared.

It was also discussed during this interview that the surprise Lucas had for Schelling, that prosecutors stated earlier in the trial lured her down to Pueblo, was cocaine.

Dog handler Frank Hurtz takes the stand

The court heard from dog handler Frank Hurtz Friday afternoon. He and his human decomposition dog "Radar" have worked on more than 100 missing persons and homicide cases around the state, including the Kelsey Berreth investigation in Teller County.

Radar is trained to detect human decomposition. Hurtz testified that Radar alerted near a tree in the backyard of the home on Manor Ridge Drive. Investigators later excavated that yard but found nothing. Radar also alerted at the Pueblo Police Department when investigators presented him with floor mats and the trunk liner from Schelling's car.

Hurtz said he and Radar did not search the Pueblo landfill. He said that environment has too many scents and would overwhelm the dog.

FBI agent Jim Moore takes the stand

The last witness called by prosecution Friday was FBI agent Jim Moore.

Moore testified that he exhausted all resources in his efforts to find Schelling but was obviously unsuccessful in locating her.

When questioned by the defense as to why he didn't do more research into Lucas, Moore said he wasn't looking for him at the time of Schelling's disappearance.

To conclude proceedings Friday, the prosecution rested its case. The defense will begin calling witnesses on Monday.

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.

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Previous coverage: The Kelsie Schelling Case
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