Dog-theft suspect gets out of jail on bond

Melissa Lockhart

One day after authorities allege she failed to appear in court when she promised, federal officials agreed to a personal-recognizance bond for a woman charged in connection with the death of a dog.

Melissa Lockhart, 32, of Fruita, was expected to be released from federal custody Thursday afternoon after U.S. Magistrate Judge Laird Milburn set bond at $5,000, unsecured.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer offered no objection to the bond amount or type, despite events on Wednesday that she said were “cause for concern.”

Heldmyer told the judge that Lockhart had promised two federal law enforcement officers she would surrender at the Wayne N. Aspinall federal building at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Lockhart’s brother, Steven Romero, 37, pleaded not guilty at a 4 p.m. hearing at the courthouse to a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals.

Heldmyer said Lockhart didn’t show until after 5 p.m. The prosecutor said Lockhart offered an explanation on why she was late, but declined comment on Lockhart’s statement.

Heldmyer also declined comment when asked if Lockhart will face a new federal charge for failure to appear.

Among a host of release conditions, Lockhart is restrained from travel outside of Mesa County without federal officials’ approval. She was also ordered to have no contact with her brother, direct or indirect.

Romero is being held without bond in the Dec. 30 death of Buddy, the dog that authorities say was dragged nearly two miles up the west entrance of Colorado National Monument and left dead on the road. Lockhart and Romero were indicted by a Denver grand jury on Monday, and a warrant was issued for Lockhart’s arrest that same day.

Romero is scheduled for trial March 22 in Denver.

Lockhart will return to court in Grand Junction on Monday for arraignment.


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