Plea delayed for woman charged in ‘Buddy’ theft
A Delta judge Wednesday gave attorneys five weeks to work out a plea agreement in the case of a Fruita woman accused of stealing a dog that authorities believe later was killed by the woman’s brother.
Melissa Lockhart, 32, was ordered Wednesday to return in March before Delta County Court Judge Sandra Miller.
A plea agreement that could potentially resolve separate state and federal criminal cases — both related to the December theft and killing of “Buddy” the dog on Colorado National Monument — could be finalized at that time, Miller said.
The judge made the statement after a private bench conference with a prosecutor and defense attorney, which happened out of earshot of the courtroom’s public gallery.
“I’m dealing with the elected District Attorney on this one,” Lockhart’s attorney, Joshua Amos, announced before approaching the judge for the private talks.
Lockhart is charged with felony theft of property valued between $1,000 to $20,000, for allegedly stealing two dogs from a pickup in downtown Delta on Dec. 29.
An arrest warrant affidavit says Lockhart initially claimed her sons found the dogs in an abandoned building.
She later told an officer the dogs, including the German-Shepherd mix “Buddy,” had gotten out of the truck and started playing with her children.
Buddy eventually ended up at her home in Fruita, where the affidavit alleges she told her brother, 37-year-old Steven Romero, to get rid of the animal after it attacked a family cat.
Romero allegedly tied the dog to his truck and dragged it to its death over nearly two miles up the west entrance of Colorado National Monument.
Romero and Lockhart face separate federal felony charges related to the dog’s death.