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Donthe Lucas will stand trial for Kelsie Schelling murder

Lucas last saw Schelling in February 2013

Mother of missing woman relieved at Pueblo judges decision

PUEBLO, Colo. - A judge in Pueblo ruled Thursday afternoon that there is enough evidence for Donthe Lucas to stand trial for the February 2013 death of ex-girlfriend Kelsie Schelling. 

Lucas' arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 28th.  He remains in jail without bond.

"It's a relief and a big victory for us," said Laura Saxton, Schelling's mother, as she stood outside the Pueblo Judicial Building after the ruling.  "It does feel good.  I feel like maybe I can take a breath for just a second."

Schelling, 21, disappeared after reportedly driving from Denver to Pueblo to see Lucas. Schelling was eight weeks pregnant and Lucas, 25, is believed to have been the father.  Schelling has not been seen or heard from since she disappeared between Feb. 4-7, 2013.

Judge Thomas Flesher called the decision to bind Lucas over for trial "clear."

"There is probable cause and evidence exists for a trial," he said.

Flesher made his decision within minutes after attorneys on both sides presented closing statements.  The hearing, which lasted less than an hour, was a continuation from two days of testimony last week.

During closing statements, prosecutors repeated their argument that Lucas "lured" Schelling from her home in the Denver area "with the intent after deliberation" of "getting rid of her" because he was upset about her pregnancy.

Prosecutors said the pregnancy was like "gasoline on a flame."

Lucas had motive and opportunity in Schelling's disappearance, prosecutors said, by driving her car for several days, cleaning it to remove any evidence, abandoning it, using her cellphone and withdrawing $400 from her bank account.

Prosecutors also supported earlier testimony from an agent who said he believes Lucas strangled Schelling to avoid leaving blood or other evidence, and that Lucas told several people, including his mother, that he had "taken care" of Schelling.

Defense attorneys continued their argument that there is insufficient evidence to implicate Lucas, and that Schelling still could be alive somewhere.

The prosecution's argument is just "theory, hints and suspicions," the defense said.

Saxton said she still wants to find her daughter's body.

"Talk to someone in a dream," Saxton said of Schelling.  "I don't know what it is, but find a way to let me know where you are, so I can bring you home.  That's what I want from her."

A hearing on a robbery charge against Lucas was rescheduled to Aug. 13.

On June 12, Lucas' grandmother will testify in a deposition for the case, to explain what she knows about his possible role in Schelling's disappearance.  Flesher said the court deposition will be open to the public unless both sides object.

Previous Story

An FBI agent revealed Friday during testimony in Pueblo that there was a four-hour window during which the cellphones of missing Kelsie Schelling and her boyfriend, Donthe Lucas, couldn't be traced.

Special Agent Scott Eicher testified for the prosecution in the second day of Lucas' preliminary hearing.

Eicher is a cellular analyst who tracked the movement and usage of calls and texts between the couple. Cell phone towers provide tracking information, he said, but that information wasn't available during the four-hour period in early February 2013 between the last time Schelling and Lucas saw each other, and Schelling's disappearance.

 

"I always had concern about that because you wonder how far out of Pueblo someone could have driven Kelsie in a four-hour period," said her mother, Laura Saxton.

Eicher said Schelling and Lucas were in frequent contact from the time she left Denver to visit him on the night of Feb. 4, until the following morning.

After that, Eicher said the frequency of contact gradually decreased until Schelling's phone was apparently turned off on the morning of Feb. 7, near the Walmart where Lucas said he last saw her.

Eicher also said there is no evidence to show the couple's phones were at Parkview Medical Center, where Lucas said he took Schelling to get a checkup on the status of her eight-week pregnancy.

Just before the lunch break, the prosecution called its last witness -- Kevin Torres, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent who was part of the Schelling probe.

Torres testified that he believes Lucas strangled Schelling at one of his former residences but added that there's no physical evidence yet to prove it. He also said Lucas made incriminating statements to a friend about murdering Schelling.

"He said he had gotten rid of her," Torres said.  "He said he had tarped her up (wrapped her body in a tarp) and thrown it into the (Arkansas) River.  Then he told (the friend) to not tell anyone because he and his family don't mess around."

Torres said Lucas also ridiculed the role of Pueblo police in the investigation. 

"He told (the friend) that the police are stupid, and that they're looking in the wrong place," Torres said of Lucas. 

Defense attorneys cross-examined Torres for more than hour, and questioned Torres about his admission that he lied to some interview subjects "in order to find the truth" about Schelling's disappearance.

At about 4 p.m. Friday, the hearing finished for the day. The hearing will resume at 2:30 p.m. Thursday for closing statements, and Judge Thomas Flesher will then decide whether enough evidence exists for Lucas to stand trial for murder.

Because of the length of this week's hearing, a second hearing on a robbery charge against Lucas has been rescheduled to next Thursday.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 also has learned that a relative of Lucas, either his mother or grandmother, will appear in court next month for a deposition in the case.

Earlier story

Day two of the preliminary hearing for Donthe Lucas, 25, began with a look at his and Kelsie Schelling's phone activity around the time of her disappearance.

Schelling disappeared in February 2013 in Pueblo. Lucas was charged with first-degree murder in December in the case, even though the body of Schelling, 21, or a murder weapon haven't been found.

Lucas and Schelling had been dating and Lucas is believed to have been the father of her unborn baby.  According to court testimony, she was eight weeks pregnant when she disappeared.

Prosecutors look at phone activity 

Prosecutors called an FBI cellular analyst to the stand. The analyst studied the usage and movement of Schelling's and Lucas' phone.

The last call from Schelling's phone was on the morning of February 7 near the Walmart she was last seen with Lucas.

However, call activity between the two had declined since the morning of Feb. 5. 

KRDO is waiting for the defense to cross-examine the FBI analyst and will bring you updates.

Click here for a breakdown from day one of the preliminary hearing.


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