Violation may mean jail in dog theft case

Melissa Lockhart

A woman who allegedly obstructed investigators in the death of a dog on Colorado National Monument may soon be jailed after new claims that she landed in trouble while free on bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer on Friday filed a motion asking a judge to set a hearing “to review and/or revoke” bond conditions for 32-year-old Melissa Lockhart.

The Fruita resident was charged in state and federal court in relation to the death of Buddy, a dog that allegedly was killed Dec. 30 by Lockhart’s brother, 38-year-old Steven Romero.

The document does not specify exactly how authorities believe Lockhart violated her release conditions, but it says federal probation authorities filed paperwork detailing the alleged violation.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, declined comment on the matter.

Stephen Laiche, Lockhart’s attorney, said he anticipates his client won’t be jailed and probation officials simply want a judge to remind Lockhart of her responsibilities while out on bond.

Among the conditions of her bond, Lockhart was ordered to not travel outside Mesa County without the permission of probation authorities, refrain from excessive alcohol, undergo mental health treatment, report as directed to probation officers and have no contact with her brother.

Lockhart on Jan. 28 was allowed to remain free after posting a $5,000, unsecured bond shortly after a federal grand jury returned indictments on allegations she misled authorities as they were investigating Buddy’s death.

Lockhart is scheduled for trial in August on state allegations that she stole two dogs, including Buddy, from a truck in downtown Delta on Dec. 29 and then drove the dogs to her home in Fruita.

“Later that evening, Lockhart and brother Steven Romero had apparently come home enraged at Buddy after they found Lockhart’s kitten dead in the home,” reads a new filing from prosecutors Friday.

Buddy was blamed, and Romero allegedly tied the dog to his truck and dragged it to its death early the next morning.

Without the benefit of a plea agreement, Romero is expected to plead guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Lockhart, however, continues to battle the federal charges.

Laiche on Monday filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the grand jury indictment, claiming Lockhart could have incriminated herself by cooperating with investigators.

Heldmyer countered that Lockhart waived her right against self-incrimination by “planning a fictional account of events and lying to police.”

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer has not ruled on the motion.


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