PUEBLO — The Donthe Lucas murder trial in the disappearance of 21-year-old Kelsie Schelling continued Tuesday, bringing to the stand a soil science expert who analyzed samples taken from her vehicle.
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.
Woman testifies on actions of Sara Lucas
Mercedes Wood, 21, was the first to take the stand Tuesday morning, following lengthy discussion among the judge, prosecution and defense.
News5's Colette Bordelon reported that Wood lived in the same neighborhood as Donthe Lucas' family from Feb. 2013 through the end of the year and the prosecution wanted her to testify about an April 2013 search and an incident about missing posters involving Lucas' mother.
The defense said that insinuating Sara Lucas as a sort of "co-conspirator" would be "new" for the jury, and that the prosecution "certainly didn't ilicit any of that information whe she [Sara Lucas] was on the stand." @KOAA— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 2, 2021
Wood was able to testify about 20 minutes after the courtroom closed for discussion and talked about when she and her family put up missing posters for Schelling near Lucas' home. At the time, she was 13 years old and she said they put a poster up on a tree in a cul-de-sac across from his home. The prosecution admitted five photos that showed the area of the cul-de-sac and where his home was in relation to her grandmother's home in the same neighborhood.
She said she noticed he was home at the time.
Wood claimed Sara Lucas, his mother, almost assaulted her mother and described Sara Lucas' voice as "scary, mean and harsh."
"I can honestly say I was scared at the time that my mother was going to be assaulted," she stated.
Wood said she saw him in the screen door of his home on the phone. Then, she said moments later, his mom Sara Lucas pulled up and yelled at the family to stop harassing her son. Wood claims Sara Lucas almost assaulted her mother. Here's Sara Lucas on the stand last week: @KOAA pic.twitter.com/ZJLqp7t0M7— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 2, 2021
But the defense then has Wood point out that the family stayed there for around 30 minutes, and Sara Lucas called the cops on them.
Soil science expert takes the stand next
Eugene Kelly, an expert in soil science and geology, takes the stand next where he was given six samples of dirt/soil that were taken from Schelling's car in 2013. He is given these samples to try and determine where they originated.
Based on the expert's knowledge, he created a map showing the concentration of amazonite near #Pueblo. Here's a snapshot of the general area we saw. If you trace Hwy 78 toward Beulah, where the highway intersects with 165, that's where the highest concentration was (roughly). pic.twitter.com/aB745PiU5E— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) March 2, 2021
He stated he believes the samples found in Schelling's car were deposited by streams or rivers and transported by water, in some way. The defense then pointed out he cannot say how long the soil was in the car.
However, he can say these minerals are not likely to be found north of #ColoradoSprings. In most of his past experience, soil found in a car has been tracked in from shoes.
Expert takes the stand to discuss fingerprints
An analyst that formerly worked for the CBI but now works for CSPD took the stand next.
She explained the difference between a record print (controlled print at the DMV for instance) and a latent print (a chance recording of a print).
Recall that a headrest had been taken out of Schelling's car and was analyzed. A picture of the headrest was shown in court and a palm outlined by a yellow light source could be seen on it. However, the print wasn't enough to warrant a comparison with other prints.
To this, the defense pointed out that it's beyond the analyst's scope to say why the print is there or the intent behind it. She also cannot say that because the print appeared large on the headrest it would belong to a large man, like Donthe Lucas.
Doctor testifies about stains found in Schelling's trunk
Dr. Chad Moore, who currently works at Quantico took the stand next.
Moore analyzed the white stains found in the trunk liner of Schelling's car. He said he found proteins and fatty acids in the substance, meaning it could come from humans, animals, or plants.
"It really didn't provide much information. Simply that this was a stain," Moore said. He could not say if it is a chemical produced by a deceased woman. He could not even say if the two stains happened at the same time.
The last question from the prosecution that Moore answered was if the stains were consistent with baby formula. He said that was a possibility.
Girl who lived in Lucas' grandmother's former home takes the stand
Up next was Melea Lobata, whose family in 2017 lived in the residence previously owned by Lucas' grandmother.
In April of 2017, she was in high school and her backyard was being excavated in a search related to Schelling. On April 7 she came home with a friend and a short time later, Lucas knocked on the door.
She said they had a quick interaction in which Lucas said he knew someone who used to live there. Lobata said he seemed more focused on what was going on around her and she thought he kept looking at the backyard.
The defense pointed out that Lucas was not rude to Lobato during this meeting, never did anything threatening, and never asked to come inside.
Final witness of the day, Lauren Suhr, takes the stand
The final witness of the day was Lauren Suhr. She now lives in Washington but lived in Colorado Springs in April 2016.
She said in 2016 she was trying to gather information from Lucas about Schelling. She said she first reached out to him on Facebook and they exchanged numbers. After a few weeks, they met in person.
One day while the two were playing basketball at a park in Pueblo, a man with a camera approached Lucas and began questioning him about Schelling. The next time the two hung out, Suhr said she started asking questions about that moment on the basketball court.
Suhr said Lucas then began opening up to her about Schelling. He told her Schelling was his ex-girlfriend and that she had claimed she was pregnant with his baby. Lucas said she was not.
He also told Suhr that law enforcement claimed he was the last person to see Schelling.
Suhr said Lucas characterized Schelling as a "best friend" because she basically paid for everything. He told her that he and Schelling would do drugs together, like cocaine. He also told Suhr that a man he did not know picked Schelling up the last time he saw her.
Lucas also admitted to Suhr that he was the person seen in the Walmart surveillance footage and that he moved the car to St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center. Prosecutors said he also admitted to that in 2017.
Suhr also testified that Lucas would break down and cry whenever he talked about Schelling he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Suhr is expected to take the stand again on Wednesday.
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