PUEBLO, Colo. — Trial began Wednesday for Donthe Lucas, who is charged with the murder of Kelsie Schelling and her unborn baby.
Lucas is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2013 disappearance of then 21-year-old Schelling. He has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Schelling was last seen in Pueblo, she’d driven to a Walmart there, from Denver, to meet with Lucas, after the a heated exchange of text messages between the two.
Schelling’s body has never been found.
Lucas was arrested in connection to Schelling’s murder in 2017. His trial was delayed multiple times, but a jury was finally seated this week.
“I just pray for the best possible jury, and I pray for them because this is not an easy thing they are being asked to do,” Schelling’s mother, Laura Saxton, told FOX21 last week.
The prosecution called Saxton to the stand on Wednesday afternoon.
Schelling’s mother spoke about her daughter’s on-again off-again relationship with Lucas, noting that Schelling – who at one point moved to California from her home in Denver – returned to Colorado so the two could be together.
“She said they started talking again. And she told me that he had changed and he was being so nice,” Saxton told the court. “And she was sure that they would end up getting married.”
In its opening statements, the defense portrayed Schelling as a young woman, flush with cash, who was willing and able to provide Lucas with funds. However, in court, Schelling’s mother said her daughter lived paycheck to paycheck. Saxton said Schelling would ask for money from time to time to make it until her next check.
When Schelling returned to the state, Saxton said she started asking for more financial help from her family.
“She wanted to help Donthe,” Saxton said. “Help Donthe be able to go to school, to play basketball, help him with his future. She saw it as an investment in her future. So she tried to help him any way she could.”
Saxton recalled the day Schelling let her know she was pregnant. Saxton said her daughter called during a workday, which she said was unusual. Saxton said she was shocked by the news, but said she always intended to support her daughter.
“I’ve always been supportive of her,” Saxton said. “And I was going to do whatever I could to help her out.”
Saxton said she asked her daughter about Lucas’ reaction to the pregnancy news. Schelling told her mother Lucas was “up and down” about the baby. Sometimes he would be supportive, other times he would be depressed.
Schelling told her mother she wasn’t sure Lucas was going to stick around to help her raise the baby, but said if he wanted to be involved, she’d allow that.
And, through tears, Saxton described the last time she heard her daughter’s voice. Schelling had gone to a routine Ob-Gyn appointment and told her mother she was fine and the baby was doing well. Saxton said she called Schelling in the following days, but her daughter never picked up. Instead, Saxton said she received sporadic text messages, but the messages were brief and the tone was “curt.” They were much different, Saxton said, then how her daughter usually wrote.
But Saxton said she didn’t panic until a few days later, when Schelling’s friends said they hadn’t been able to get in touch with her for several days. Saxton reported her daughter missing to Denver Police. She also made a call to Donthe Lucas.
“I thought it anyone would know where she was, he probably would,” Saxton said. “I called him and asked if he had seen her and he said, “Yes, I saw her on Tuesday.'” According to Saxton, Lucas told her he and Schelling had argued and parted ways.
On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Schelling’s car was found in the parking lot at St. Mary Corwin’s Hospital in Pueblo. Saxton drove down from Denver to look at the vehicle, which she was shocked to find in terrible condition.
“It was just a mess,” she said. “It was full of gravel. Even the cracks in the seats had gravel. There was dust on the interior. I just knew that Kelsie would never let her car get in that condition.”
The investigation then transfered to Pueblo Police.
Prosecutors called their second witness towards the end of the day on Wednesday. Ryan Rivera testified that he has had a number of criminal charges, mostly around theft, identity theft, and fraud. During one of his most recent stints in jail, Rivera was in the Pueblo County Jail for nine months over 2018 and 2019.
During that time, Rivera said he and Lucas were housed a few pods apart for five months and recalled one specific conversation. “They weren’t going to convict him for it. They’re not going to find a body,” Rivera testified.
Prosecutors then asked Rivera why Lucas didn’t think a body would be found.
“Because his mom had helped him,” Rivera said.
Rivera’s testimony continues with cross-examination on Thursday morning.