PUEBLO, Colo. — After just a few hours of deliberations, a jury has found Donthe Lucas guilty in the 2013 disappearance and murder of Kelsie Schelling. And shortly after the verdict came down, sentencing did as well: life without the possibility of parole.
In an emotional press conference following the day’s events, Schelling’s mother, Laura Saxton, addressed the media.
“I’m honestly kind of really still in shock right now,” she said, as her voice shook. “This has been a really long, hard road.”
And although she said she is thankful for Lucas’ conviction, she is still at a loss.
“We’re really thankful for this outcome,” she said through tears. “But in the end, we didn’t get Kelsie back.” Saxton said she’s tortured by the idea that she didn’t do enough following her daughter’s disappearance, although she’s been a strong, consistent voice throughout the years. It’s something she said she’ll have to live with for the rest of her life.
“I think Kelsie can finally rest,” Saxton said. “I’m not sure Mama can.”
Donthe Lucas was arrested in 2017 and charged with first degree murder in the 2013 death of his pregnant, one-time girlfriend, Kelsie Schelling. He previously pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the crime.
Schelling’s body has never been found, despite years of searches in several areas of the state.
She was last seen on the night of February 4, 2013. She’d driven, that night, from the Denver area to the southside Walmart in Pueblo, where she intended to meet Lucas.
The prosecution rested on Friday. The defense rested Monday morning, without calling any witnesses to the stand. Closing statements took place a short time later.
Over the last two weeks, the prosecution has interviewed a host of witnesses, including Schelling’s parents, her friends and co-workers, and a variety of forensic experts.
The proseuction’s closing statements pointed to the amount of time Lucas would have had – between the time Schelling was discovered missing to the time she was killed: five days, they said.
They accused Lucas of sending deceptive texts to Schelling’s friends and family from the dead woman’s phone.
“He’s stalling. He’s stalling friends, he’s stalling the family, he’s stalling coworkers,” a prosecuting attorney said to the jury. “Why? Because the longer he stalls, the longer is takes to get to the police so they can do their job.”
And they pointed to a strained relationship between Schelling and Lucas, made even more fraught by the news of Schelling’s pregnancy.
“We don’t ask you to guess or assume they were arguing at the pregnancy,” prosecutors said. “We don’t ask you to assume what the relationship is like… you can see and read for yourself that there was stress and contention and arguing,” they continued, referring to a heated exchange of text messages which were presented to the court earlier in trial.
On of the defense’s strategies during this trial, has been to point to the lack of a body, the lack of a crime scene, and the lack of blood or evidence of trauma.
“The most intimate and personal way to extinguish a life is wrapping two hands around a person’s neck,” the prosecution said Monday. “Gripping their trachea, restricting their air, restricting their oxygen.”
As for the defense, Lucas’ attorneys said the case at hand goes well beyond reasonable doubt.
“There is more doubt than there is evidence,” his team said. “This isn’t the biggest stretch in Pueblo history, it’s the biggest stretch in Colorado history and maybe even beyond.”
The defense pointed again and again to, what they say, is a lack of evidence in a case that’s dragged on for far too long.
“Day after day of witnesses. They did searches. They talked to people. They examined DNA, they examined evidence and they got nothing,” the defense told the jury. “All of this ‘nothing’ that they searched for somehow equalled ‘guilt’ of the defendent,” they continued.
Ultimately, the jury agreed with the prosecution’s arguments and found Lucas guilty of first-degree murder.
At the outset of trial, the judge issued a decorum which does not allow media to record audio or video, take still pictures, or live report (i.e. reporters may not Tweet information from inside the courthouse).
This article will be updated.