NEWS: Friday September 17, 2010

Sep 17th @ 11:28 am in News by Scott Staley

Melissa Lockhart sentenced to federal prison for being an accessory after the fact in the dragging death of “Buddy the Dog.” Melissa Marie Lockhart, age 33, formerly of Fruita, Colorado, was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer to serve 12 months and one day in federal prison for being an accessory after the fact in the dragging death of “Buddy the Dog.”  Lockhart was also ordered by Judge Brimmer to serve one year of supervised release following her incarceration.  She appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody, and was remanded immediately after.

Melissa Marie Lockhart was originally charged by Criminal Complaint, a probable cause charging document, on December 30, 2009.  She was then indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on January 25, 2010.  She was charged and pled guilty to a one count Information on May 28, 2010.  An Information is a charging document where the defendant waives their Constitutional right to be indicted by a federal grand jury.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, in the early morning hours of December 20, 2009, a mixed-breed dog named “Buddy,” who belonged to a Delta, Colorado family, was found dead on the Colorado National Monument.  Buddy had been dragged to his death behind a red pickup truck driven by Steven Clay Romero, Lockhart’s brother, who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.   Buddy, and another dog owned by the victim, had been taken from the Delta area the morning before Buddy’s death by Lockhart.  Lockhart and Romero took the dogs to Lockhart’s home in Fruita, where she resided with her husband and children.  At the time they were taken, the dogs were healthy, clean and well-fed.

All parties left the home for a period of time on December 29, 2009.  Later that evening, Lockhart and Romero returned and discovered the remains of their kitten in Lockhart’s home.  Blaming Buddy for the death, Romero took Buddy to the Monument in the back of a pickup truck, tied a rope around his neck and to the truck, and drove up hill.  Buddy died of internal hemorrhaging consistent with a dragging death.

After Buddy was dead, Romero cut the rope and left the Monument, leaving Buddy’s remains on the side of the road.

Police in Delta began an investigation into the dog theft, as Park Rangers from Monument independently investigated Buddy’s death.  Through an eye witness, Delta police identified Lockhart as the person who had left a Delta business parking lot with the two dogs.  As the investigation continued, Delta police officers conducted a number of conversations and interviews with Lockhart.  During one such conversation, Lockhart said that she took the dogs because they were in an abandoned house.  The eye witness has stated that the dogs were loose, having gotten out of the back of another pickup truck, and were playing with Lockhart’s children while Lockhart was seeing Dr. Sam Jahani.  The dogs were then put in Lockhart’s car, and she drove away.  The witness wrote down Lockhart’s license plate number.

Lockhart later stated she had taken the dogs to her grandfather’s residence in Delta, and left them there, though she was unable to give the police the address or coherent directions to the residence.  Officers were able to eventually locate Lockhart’s grandfather’s residence.  The grandfather said he knew nothing about the dogs.  Fruita police determined that a neighbor had complained the day before Buddy’s death about howling dogs in the Lockhart townhouse.  Officers responded, but found no one home.  They did see two dogs through the window.

On December 30, 2009, Lockhart accompanied her brother’s girlfriend to a parking lot in Grand Junction.  Fruita Police Department, Grand Junction Police Department, and Park Rangers were present.  Lockhart was approached by police and told that she would be charged in Delta with the theft of the dogs.  When given an opportunity to make a statement, Lockhart repeated her false story picking up two dogs that had been abandoned, and were at her house, until one ran away.

According to Romero’s girlfriend, the morning after Buddy was killed she met with Romero and Lockhart to plan what would be said to police.  All knew that Romero had killed Buddy, and the intended to protect Romero from possible prosecution by lying about the events in question.

The case was investigated by The National Park Service, which is a division of the Department of Interior, the Delta Police Department, the Fruita Police Department, the Grand Junction Police Department, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Romero and Lockhart were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer.
Source: Press Release    (Posted 11:53a)

Power back on. Residents north and south of Begonia from 5500 Road to 5725 Road and Blossom Road from 5700 Road to 5800 Road were without power for just over an hour this morning. DMEA says that an ultra lite plane reportedly hit a line and crashed near Begonia Road. Power was out to 72 customers from 8:45-11:00 this morning. Begonia Road is between Olathe and Delta.
Source: DMEA    (Posted 11:30a)

A 23-year-old Mesa woman was killed this morning in a one vehicle accident on County Road 330E, about 25 miles east of Collbran. NBC 11 News says Courtni Bieser lost control of her SUV and rolled down an embankment. Bieser and another passenger were ejected. The passenger is in stable condition. Another occupant suffered minor injuries. Alcohol isn’t suspected in the crash.
Source: NBC 11 News (Posted 11:27a)