Donthe Lucas trial: Kelsie Schelling murder trial postponed due to COVID-19 exposure
The trial of Donthe Lucas, accused of first-degree murder in the 2013 disappearance of his pregnant, 21-year-old girlfriend, Kelsie Schelling, has been postponed two weeks after an individual in the courtroom was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Flesher announced Wednesday morning at what would have been the sixth day of Lucas’ trial, that “someone in the courtroom” during this week's proceedings tested positive for for the novel coronavirus.
Flesher said in discussing the matter with the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday evening, it was recommended the court exercise a 14-day quarantine. The trial is scheduled to resume at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 24.
Admittance to the court has been extremely limited throughout trial proceedings. Outside of family members of Schelling and Lucas, only about three seats have been open to the public, which routinely have been filled by members of the media.
No further information about the positive test was announced in court Wednesday.
“I think that the steps we took were very appropriate and obviously all the jurors have been masked and socially distanced,” Flesher said, appearing through a web conferencing platform.
“But, certainly, I think it is necessary and appropriate that everybody cooperate with this process so that we can ensure, frankly, that everybody stays healthy.
“I talked to you folks about this from the beginning … we’re in challenging times and this is kind of another challenge, frankly, that we have to kind of deal with. And certainly, we’re going to deal with it the best way we can.”
Flesher then called the two-week recess. He reminded members of the jury to continue to comply with his admonition that they cannot read news reports or do any independent investigation about the case during the break.
Flesher also asked jurors to write down any reason that the two-week delay might impact their ability to participate on the jury.
“I’m not releasing anybody at this point, but … you didn’t anticipate this delay, none of us anticipated this delay and I’d like you to put down if there are reasons you feel this would impact your ability to be a juror.
“This is unfortunate, but it’s necessary, I think, given kind of the nature of the world we’re in today and the issues we have to deal with as a community.”
Chieftain reporter Zach Hillstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachHillstrom