“I can honestly say I was scared at the time”: Donthe Lucas’ neighbor takes the stand Tuesday

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PUEBLO, Colo. — The man accused in the 2013 murder of Kelsie Schelling returned to a Pueblo County courtroom on Tuesday.

Kelsie Schelling was last seen in Pueblo in February of 2013.

Schelling, 21, was eight weeks pregnant when she disappeared February 4, 2013, after driving from Denver to Pueblo. She was supposed to meet Donthe Lucas, her boyfriend at the time, at the Walmart on Northern Avenue.

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Donthe Lucas is charged in the 2013 disappearance and murder of Kelsie Schelling.

Lucas was arrested and charged with first degree murder in 2017, although Schelling’s body was never found. He has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

During this trial, Schelling’s mother, Laura Saxton, testified about the tumultuous relationship between her daughter and Lucas. That point was restated by Schelling’s friends, who also took the stand in the first few days of trial. One friend said Schelling had told her Lucas had been physically abusive.

On Tuesday, Mercedes Woods, a former neighbor of Lucas’, was called to the stand. Woods said she was in middle school when Schelling disappeared. She remembered participating in a search and also hanging posters, featuring Schelling, around their neighborhood.

Woods said the posters had no mention of Donthe Lucas on them, yet told the court that upon seeing the posters, Lucas showed up at her house. Woods said he yelled at her from the front yard and then got on the phone. Minutes later, she said, Sara Lucas pulled up and accused the Woods of harassing her family.

“I can honestly say I was scared at the time – that my mother was going to be assaulted,” Woods said in court. “[Sara Lucas] was screaming at us.”

FBI agent Rene Vonderhaar was next to take the stand. Vonderhaar was part of the FBI team to search the yard of Donthe Lucas’ grandmother’s home as well as Schelling’s car. The vehicle was found, abandoned, in the parking lot of Saint Mary-Corwin several days after Schelling’s disappearance.

Vonderhaar said her team dug up about three feet of a garden bed at Vivian Lucas’ house, noting the area looked as though it had been disturbed. But, she said, nothing was found there.

Prosecutors also questioned a geologist from Colorado State University. Eugene Kelly, a soil science expert, tested soil found in Schelling’s car and found it contained a high amount of amazonite. Kelly said that suggests the dirt is from Pikes Peak granite, which would likely originate from an area west and southwest of Pueblo. He said it is unlikely to have originated in the Denver area, where Schelling lived.

Kelly said the dirt found in Schelling’s car likely came from an area about 90 minutes from Pueblo.

Three different evidence techs took the stand, stating they didn’t find usable evidence:

  • A CBI fingerprint specialist said they didn’t find fingerprints in Kelsie’s car, only a palm print that didn’t have enough to identify.
  • An FBI Cell Phone Tech said he couldn’t unlock an iPhone in 2017
  • An FBI Forensic Analyst said the white stain in Kelsie’s trunk couldn’t be identified

A pair of witnesses said in April 2017, Pueblo Police were digging up the backyard, and Lucas knocked on their door.

Lauren Suhr said she added Lucas on social media, and after a few weeks of talking, the two met up in Pueblo. While the two played basketball, a person approached them with a camera, bombarding Lucas with questions about Kelsie.

The next time Suhr and Lucas hung out, she asked him about Schelling. Lucas described her as a best friend.

The prosecutors say they’ll rest later this week.

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