Solved with no body: The case of Kelsie Schelling
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Being pregnant is supposed to be a happy occasion for a mother-to-be, with the knowledge that they’ve created new life and are about to experience the joys of motherhood. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end that way. Let’s talk about Kelsie Schelling, whose pregnancy news turned tragic when she went missing in 2013.
Kelsie Jean Schelling was born on February 18, 1991 to mom Laura and dad Doug. She also had a brother named Colby, but I’m not sure if he was older or younger.
Kelsie grew up in Holyoake, Colorado, a small town about 170 miles west of Denver. She was described by her family as active, fun loving and a firecracker. But when her parents divorced in 2002, Kelsie stopped doing a lot of the activities she used to love and struggled with depression.
After high school graduation, Kelsie went on to attend Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. She wanted to eventually get a degree in psychology and do something working with kids. It seemed like things were looking up for Kelsie, but Northeastern is also where the trajectory of her life changed.
In 2010, Kelsie met Donthe Lucas, who played basketball for Northeastern. She was into him from the start, and they began dating. But their relationship was on and off and had a lot of turmoil.
According to Kelsie’s roommate at the time, her entire personality changed when she started dating Donthe. Their arguments got so bad that the roommate moved out. A friend of Kelsie’s would later testify that Kelsie told her Donthe was physically abusive; this friend also claimed to see bruises on Kelsie’s body while she and Donthe were dating.
From everything I’ve read, it seems like Kelsie was much more into the relationship than Donthe was, and I have seen plenty of allegations that he was just using her for money and was only with her because she paid for everything.
Kelsie moved to California in 2011 and her relationship with Donthe fizzled. But they got back together in 2012 when she left California and moved to Denver. In December 2012, Kelsie got a tattoo of a key with Donthe’s initials.
It was also around late 2012 that 21-year-old Kelsie started to notice that something was different. During the holiday season of that year, after taking three at-home tests, she told her parents she was pregnant. They were shocked, of course, but said they’d be there for her. She told her friends about the pregnancy in January of 2013. I’m not sure exactly when she told Donthe, but he reportedly wasn’t too happy about it. According to Kelsie’s mom, Laura Saxton, Donthe said he would be there for his child — but his already fragile relationship with Kelsie was on the rocks.
***note: some sources say Kelsie was 22 at the time of her disappearance. She was actually 21, but just a few days away from turning 22.
On February 2, 2013, Donthe sent Kelsie text messages asking her to come to Pueblo, Colorado, where he lived. Kelsie initially didn’t want to see him because they’d been fighting so much and assured him that he owned her nothing. On February 3, Donthe asked Kelsie if she wanted to go on a road trip but she said no because she had a doctor’s appointment the next day.
On February 4, that doctor’s appointment confirmed that Kelsie was eight weeks pregnant and due on September 13. She sent her sonogram pictures to Donthe, who once again asked her to drive down and see him, saying he had a surprise for her. This time, she agreed.
Kelsie left work around 8:40 pm that night and made the two hour drive from Denver to Pueblo. While she was on the road, Donthe sent her another text and asked her to meet him at a local Wal-Mart, where she arrived just after 11 pm. After waiting for an hour, he sent her another text, this time asking her to meet him at an intersection close to his grandmother’s house, also in Pueblo. Sometime between 11:15 pm and 12:30 am, Kelsie sent Donthe a text asking where he was and complaining that she’d been waiting for him for over an hour. This is believed to be the last text message sent from her phone that was actually sent by her. A few hours later, Donthe called her phone, but pings indicated the phones were close together. It’s not clear just why he was calling her, but police believe he was trying to find her phone. Other phone records and pings would later show their phones close to each other in the Pueblo area, including at Donthe’s mom’s house, his grandmother’s house and the Wal-Mart where they were supposed to meet.
In the early morning hours of February 5, Laura Saxton got several text messages from Kelsie’s phone, but they weren’t written in a way that her daughter would normally write messages. Kelsie didn’t show up for work that day and didn’t call in advance to notify anyone, which was unusual for her. The next day, one of Kelsie’s co-workers, Savannah Martin, got a text from her phone saying she was no longer having the baby because it was “growing in the wrong place.” She obviously thought this was weird. Both of Kelsie’s parents and some of her friends tried to call her, but never got an answer.
After a few days of not hearing from Kelsie, her mom, stepdad and brother went to Pueblo and arranged a welfare check at Donthe’s house. Donthe told Kelsie’s stepdad that she got to Pueblo between 3 and 4 am on the 5th and they slept at his grandmother’s house. The next day, he claimed he took Kelsie to the doctor. According to him, after waiting for awhile, she told him that she’d miscarried. Then she kicked him out of the car and drove off. Donthe also told Kelsie’s mom that she’d gone back to California to stay with an ex-boyfriend.
On the morning of February 5, Donthe was captured on CCTV footage driving Kelsie’s car to a bank, where he withdrew $400 from her account. Just after noon, he was seen parking her car at the Wal-Mart they were supposed to meet at and leaving it there. The next day, February 6, footage showed another, unknown man driving it away. The car was found on February 7 at a hospital.
Kelsie’s parents contacted police pretty quickly, and they interviewed Donthe. He initially denied having anything to do with Kelsie’s disappearance or even being in a relationship with her. He also told them that Kelsie was with him at the ATM and he then dropped her back off at Wal-Mart — but obviously security footage proved otherwise. He told police that Kelsie did drugs and that she might have taken her own life.
On February 11, a search warrant was executed at Donthe’s house. On February 15, he was arrested for identity theft for taking Kelsie’s debit card and withdrawing money from her account. When police discovered that Kelsie occasionally let Donthe use her debit card, the charges were dropped.
A few months later, Donthe’s mom’s landlord found a substance in the house hat appeared to be blood. Cadaver dogs also searched Donthe’s backyard at some point but nothing was found. Not too long after these searches, the house Donthe had lived in at the time caught fire. Arson was suspected, but never proven.
In the meantime, Kelsie’s family started a website, helpfindkelsie.com. The site hasn’t been updated in awhile, but does have a lot more details than I can go into here. You can check it out here.
At some point in the investigation, Laura Saxton got a message from a man saying Kelsie was alive. He claimed Donthe had hired a friend of his to kill her but the friend didn’t do it. Donthe thought she was dead, but his friend had actually sold her into sex trafficking. This man said he needed $50,000 to help rescue Kelsie, and told Laura to bring the money to a man named Marcus who would meet her at a McDonald’s in Vancouver.
Unsurprisingly, Laura was skeptical, but still decided to meet with the man. She asked for help from the Vancouver Police Department who agreed to go undercover but pulled out at the last minute. ABC News cameras, filming for the show 20/20, caught up with the man in the parking lot, but he left after a few minutes. This whole situation is believed to have been a scam.
In 2015, Kelsie’s parents filed a lawsuit against Donthe, his mother, grandmother, another family member and two members of the Pueblo Police Department. (lawsuit) According to the lawsuit, Pueblo police lied to Kelsie’s family about how much forensic evidence they’d found in Kelsie’s car. (A private investigator hired by the family later found more evidence the police had missed. Police also allegedly didn’t get “navigational evidence” or turn Wal-Mart surveillance footage over to the FBI, who could have analyzed it further. They never investigated or drained Lake Minnequa in Pueblo, where a fisherman found a human head and torso in May of 2014.
The family asked for compensation for funeral costs, investigation costs and wrongful death damages. However, the lawsuit was later dismissed.
In September 2016, Laura Saxton reached out to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to get them to take a second look at the case. It worked.
In 2017, police searched the backyard of the house Donthe had lived in at the time of Kelsie’s disappearance. They did find new evidence and didn’t specify what it was, but a spokesperson said it was not a body. They also searched land in Pueblo, but nothing was found.
In December 2017, Donthe Lucas was already in the custody of Pueblo Police, facing armed robbery charges. It was here that he was charged with first degree murder in Kelsie’s disappearance. He pled not guilty the following year and later filed a motion in court saying Kelsie’s father had killed her. After his arrest, Donthe also admitted he was the man in the surveillance footage who had driven Kelsie’s car from Wal-Mart to the hospital.
The trial was delayed at least four times, for various reasons, but finally began on February 3, 2021. Prosecutors said Donthe lured Kelsie to Pueblo to kill her because he didn’t want to be a father. They claimed she was killed sometime between midnight and 3 am in the early morning hours of February 5. A man in jail with Donthe claimed Donthe told him Kelsie’s body would never be found.
On the night of February 25 — while the trial was going on — Roxann Martinez was shot and killed at an intersection in Denver. Martinez, an old girlfriend of Donthe’s, was reportedly set to testify that she’d overheard Donthe confess to killing Kelsie. One of her family members thought her murder might be connected to the trial, but someone else later turned himself in and was arrested. Her murder is believed to related to domestic violence.
On March 8, 2021, Donthe Lucas was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He remains in prison today.
where is Kelsie?
So after a long eight years, Kelsie’s killer is finally behind bars. But the question remains: Where is her body?
In a press conference right after the verdict, Laura Saxton said the following:
“Obviously I’m going to forever say she’s never been found. So please, anyone, if you’re going out hiking … keep searching. Don’t give up on the idea.”
I know there are a lot of mountains in the Denver area, and I imagine Pueblo is no exception. Plenty of people have gone missing in mountain areas and have never been found; there are a lot of cliffs a body can fall off or streams they can be carried down that can easily hide remains.
But there is another possibility. On the morning of February 6, 2013, there was an attempted break-in at a landfill in Pueblo. Someone had messed with a lock there, but the landfill’s security camera didn’t pick up anything but a pair of headlights. Was someone trying to get into the landfill to hide Kelsie’s body there?
Kelsie Jean Schelling was 21 years old and 8 weeks pregnant when she was last seen on February 4, 2013 in Pueblo, Colorado. Kelsie was a white female, 5 feet 3 inches tall with hazel eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a gray jacket, a black coat with fur on the hood, black workout pants and brown Ugg boots. She was also carrying a pink bag with clothes and “personal items” inside (according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation). Kelsie is presumed dead, but as of March 2021 there is a $50,000 reward for information leading to her remains.
I’ve been following her disappearance for awhile, but wanted to wait to cover it until there was a verdict in Donthe Lucas’s trial. I really hope he’s wrong when he (allegedly) says Kelsie’s body is somewhere where it will never be found.