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Krystal Kenney sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection to the Kelsey Berreth case

3 years is maximum Kenney faced at sentencing
Posted: 11:01 AM, Jan 28, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-29 11:13:33-05
Krystal Kenney Lee 2

TELLER COUNTY, Colo. — Minutes before she was sentenced Tuesday morning, Krystal Lee Kenney stood in front of the court and listed out apologies.

Donned in all black with her blonde hair pulled back in a tight French braid, she said she was sorry that she let her emotions and fear cloud her judgment. That she was sorry that Kelsey Berreth’s friends and family will live the rest of their lives without her. That she was sorry Kaylee, Berreth’s young daughter, will grow up without her biological mother.

“I’m sorry that I did not save Kelsey,” she said through tears.

Just before 11 a.m., Judge Scott Sells made the decision on her sentence.

“Simply saying I’m sorry is not enough,” he said.

Kenney, 33, was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by one year of mandatory parole. It was the maximum sentence.

At a news conference that followed, 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May described how emotional he was about the case and the judge's decision.

"This is probably the most emotional case I have ever been involved in. Today certainly was no different," he said. "I have to say, as I am standing here in front of you now, I'm still feeling some of the emotions. This is just a horrible tragedy. It never had to happen. Such a nice person (Berreth) and such a nice family. It's one of the toughest cases I've ever dealt with."

News conference: Krystal Kenney sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection to the Kelsey Berreth case

Kenney had an intimate relationship with Patrick Frazee, the man who was found guilty in November 2019 of murdering 29-year-old Berreth, who was his fiancée, on Thanksgiving Day 2018. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence and agreed to testify at Frazee's murder trial.

Kenney will have to pay felony court costs, restitution and any surcharges should the court order her to do so as part of her plea agreement, which was unsealed Tuesday after the sentencing hearing. As a term of the agreement, the district attorney’s office would have been able to withdraw the agreement if she failed to comply with all of its terms, which included her agreement “to testify truthfully at any trial or proceeding concerning the death of Kelsey Berreth.”

Also included in the plea deal she signed was the following stipulation: “I agree that my plea will be final. Only the judge will have the power to reject this agreement later. Once I plead guilty in court, I will not be allowed change my mind."

Family, friends say Frazee used fear to control Kenney

A couple minutes before court started Tuesday morning, Kenney walked in with her attorney Dru Nielsen and they took their seats in front of the courtroom. As soon as Kenney sat down, she started to tear up.

Court began exactly at 9 a.m.

To start character statements, Nielsen played a video that featured several of Kenney’s family members and friends from Idaho describing what she was like as a child, her love of horses and rodeo, and her nurturing, caring person.

Her aunt, Kristi Kenney, said she took care of anybody who needed help.

“She has this caring soul. Krystal has this — sorry,” she said, pausing as she became emotional in the video. “Krystal has the most beautiful soul.”

Sheana Bingham, a friend of Kenney’s, was featured in the video saying that Kenney is one of the strongest people she knows, so it must have taken something significant to scare her into participating in a murder plot.

Kenney was also in the video, describing how she loved her career as a nurse and helping people. She said she knows the pain she has gone through since the crime is nothing compared to what Berreth or her family went through. She said she sees things all the time that remind her of the young Woodland Park mother.

“My punishment comes every day,” she said in the video.

Throughout the presentation, Kenney cried quietly in court.

After the video, three women came up to speak on Kenney’s behalf.

Suzanne Wilson of Hansen, Idaho said she’s known Kenney for many years and frequently asked for her help teaching kids how to ride horses and rodeo. Wilson said Kenney told her that Frazee was also interested in horses, but had a temper and was unpredictable. Wilson tried to tell her that Frazee was manipulating her and over time, Kenney seemed to understand Frazee wasn’t healthy for her.

But even when Kenney married her now-ex-husband in 2010, she still talked about Frazee, Wilson said.

After Wilson had learned about Kenney's involvement in the case, the two met up in early 2019 so Wilson could offer support, she said. Kenney sobbed, but said she couldn’t share any details because she was talking with investigators. She’d later explain to Wilson that she had restarted her relationship with Frazee and he’d shared that Berreth was abusive toward their young daughter. He asked her to kill Berreth, but after three unsuccessful plans, he realized she wasn’t cooperating and changed his tactics, Wilson said.

He’d mention things about kids disappearing on playgrounds and how he always knew where Kenney’s children were, Kenney told Wilson.

“He made sure Kenney knew he could get to her kids,” Wilson said.

She made the decision to protect her own kids by not telling authorities about Frazee’s plan to kill Berreth, Wilson said, and she hoped he would never actually go through with the murder.

When she was talking with authorities in December 2018 and January 2019 and finally felt safe, she explained everything she knew, Wilson said.

“Krystal is the reason Patrick Frazee is in jail,” she said. “Krystal is the only reason we know the monster that Patrick Frazee really is.”

A friend and counselor of Kenney’s walked up in front of court next and said that she has been working with Kenney in a clinical therapy setting, with Kenney as her patient. She said Kenney shows signs of anxiety, PTSD and depression, and is now fearful, hesitant and isolated. Kenney cries over Berreth and her family every night.

Frazee illustrates sociopathic behavior and had groomed Kenney with intimidation, while using her children’s safety against her, she said. She described it as a kind of domestic violence.

The counselor said Kenney hopes to one day use horses in a therapeutic way to help other women and children affected by domestic violence.

She added that she worries over Kenney’s mental health and willingness to survive should she get the maximum sentence.

Sheana Bingham, who was featured in the earlier video, was also in court and described Kenney as an amazing parent, dedicated nurse and leader in her work environment.

She said Kenney has paid the price for her actions over and over again.

“She feels like she was a fool, but I think she is just a survivor,” Bingham said.

Berreth family: ‘The only thing (Kenney) didn’t do is swing the bat’

Chris Paulhamus, a coworker of Berreth's at Doss Aviation, where she worked at the time of her death, said he wanted to address the court.

He explained that in November 2018, Berreth’s supervisor approached him twice to explain that she would be out of the office. Shortly after that, he saw that she was missing on the news. But he’d heard about authorities following the trail of cell phone pings in and near Idaho, so it appeared to him that she was still alive, he said.

As time went by, employees starting replaying conversations with her in their heads, he said. Guilt settled in and they wondered if they should have seen something was wrong. Some coworkers took time off of work to search for Berreth in Woodland Park and nearby trails.

“If she was out there somewhere and could see or hear them, she could know they were searching for her,” he said. “It could give her some hope.”

Meanwhile, her absence at work was “glaring” and “haunting,” Paulhamus said.

Then, on Dec. 21, 2018, Frazee was arrested and the Woodland Park Police Department held a press conference. Paulhamus said the staff, who was having a holiday party at the time, watched it online in Berreth’s office space.

The hope they had carried for weeks was gone when the police chief said he no longer believed Berreth was alive.

“Our sister was dead. It was crushing,” Paulhamus said.

He told Judge Sells that he wants justice for Berreth, who is the real victim in this case.

Darrell Berreth, Berreth's father, came to the stand and briefly stated that Kenney’s actions don’t show remorse, noting how she never reached out to police. He said he didn’t want or plan to speak in the courtroom Tuesday, but felt he had to.

He said some of Kenney's friends and family had mentioned good aspects about her character, but if you look at Frazee’s trial, one of his friends who testified, John Moore, said the same sort of things about Frazee.

“And look what he did,” Darrell Berreth said.

A letter he and Cheryl Berreth, Berreth's mother wrote, was read out loud in court.

As in the trial, they acknowledged that Frazee’s conviction would have been much more difficult without Kenney’s testimony, but said that does not excuse her actions. As a nurse, she knew that if she reported Frazee to police and asked for protection, she would have gotten it for not only herself, but her family, the letter read.

Instead, she chose to attempt to kill Berreth three times, clean up the murder scene, destroy evidence and more.

She shouldn’t have received the plea deal, as she was an active participant in the murder, the family wrote.

“The only thing she didn’t do is swing the bat,” the letter read.

Kenney's attorney claims she was manipulated, DA asks for maximum sentence

Just prior to the sentencing, DA Dan May stood in front of Judge Sells and said the state acknowledged that Kenney testified truthfully in the Frazee trial, that she is remorseful for her actions and inactions, and that her friends and family all had positive things to say about her.

But they weren’t in court to sentence her based on the way she grew up or her background, May said.

He became emotional as he described the three times Kenney visited Colorado at Frazee’s direction to kill his fiancée. He noted that most people in the courtroom on Tuesday had never met Berreth, but Kenney looked her in the eyes in early October 2018 when she delivered the coffee — which was not poisoned, as Frazee had planned — to Berreth’s home. She answered the door with her baby in her arms.

“She saw Berreth holding that child, knowing somebody wants to make that child motherless — I cannot imagine that,” May said, crying.

Kenney already had received a substantial deal through the plea agreement, he said. She could have been charged with tampering with a deceased body (Class 3 felony carrying a sentence of 16-32 years), attempted murder, and accessory to first-degree murder (Class 4 felony carrying a sentence up to 12 years in the aggravated range). May later explained that he didn't feel they could convict her of attempted murder since she did not follow through on any of the three plans, which could have been used as a defense if she faced those charges.

In court Tuesday, May said the statements Kenney’s friends and family made earlier Tuesday morning were heartfelt, but just made him think of Berreth — what she’ll never do, who she’ll never impact and the relationship she’ll never have with her child.

He asked for the maximum sentence of three years before sitting down.

Kenney’s attorney Nielsen walked up in front of the room with Kenney by her side. Nielsen said unlike Frazee, Kenney is a genuinely good and moral person.

Nielsen said she won’t call Kenney a victim, because that’s not fair to the Berreth family, but emphasized that she was manipulated by somebody who was devoid of compassion and empathy over the course of a decade. Frazee instilled fear and obedience in Kenney by making her constantly afraid of him and what he could do, she explained.

“As we know, rational good decisions are not made when a person is acting out of fear,” she said.

It’s important for the court to consider that and the position she was in at the time of the crime, she said. Kenney had just seen a gruesome scene inside Berreth’s home and it had become clear that Frazee’s threats toward her and her children — particularly with his comment about little blonde girls going missing from playgrounds all the time when Kenney’s young daughter is blonde — was very real. She knew what he was capable of.

“She was intertwined with a man who just beat the mother of his child to death,” Nielsen said. “So, it wasn’t so simple and clear to Krystal Lee of how to handle this overwhelming situation. She didn’t feel safe and secure in contacting police at the time.”

Now, she’s thankful to be alive, but feels the heavy weight of remorse and regret every day, she said.

Because of Kenney, Frazee cannot hurt anybody else, Nielsen said, and if not for her, he could still be out in the community at this very moment.

She asked for a one-year sentence because no matter how long Kenney is in prison, It won’t be as hard as what she’s already been through and what she’ll endure the rest of her life, Nielsen said.

“Her true sentence is living every day,” she said.

Kenney also spoke in the courtroom, crying throughout her short statement.

“There are so many things I wanted to say,” she said, before listing out what she felt sorry for.

She turned to the front row in court and said that she knew saying sorry was not good enough, but that she does feel remorse. She said she was sorry she let emotions and fear cloud her judgment, for justifying her actions based on assumptions, for her silence being mistaken as lack of remorse, that Berreth’s friends and family will have to live their lives without her, and that Berreth’s daughter won’t grow up with her biological mom.

And lastly: “I’m sorry that I did not save Kelsey.”

“Would you like to say anything else?” Judge Sells asked.

“That’s all,” Kenney replied.

Sells leaned forward in his chair and, in an abbreviated way, listed out Kenney’s involvement in the case: She made a conscious decision to use Berreth’s phone to mislead her coworkers, family and law enforcement and created the false impression that Berreth was still alive. She went to Nash Ranch with Frazee, where he removed a black tote containing Berreth’s body from the top of a haystack, and drove to his property in Florissant. She was present when he burned the tote. And she took the phone to Idaho before burning it to conceal her actions, he said. All the while, she didn't alert authorities.

“You made an ongoing, multi-day effort to tamper with evidence that spanned hours and hours and hundreds of miles,” he said.

Saying she was sorry wasn’t enough, he said, and she deserved the maximum sentence.

He then, at 10:56 a.m., sentenced her to three years in prison, followed by one year of mandatory parole.

Kenney’s face was red from crying previously, but she did not react to the sentence. She was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.

District attorney reflects on entire case, police chief says no sentence will bring Berreth back

At a news conference that followed the sentencing hearing, DA May described how Judge Sells made his decision on Kenney's sentence.

“The judge today expressed that he felt that her actions were cold and calculated. She expressed a lot of remorse both in the presentence report and in court today. But he told her that sorry, that just wasn’t enough. And he felt the three years was appropriate under the circumstances,” May said.

He said this case was very emotional and one of the toughest he's ever been a part of. Tuesday's hearing wasn't any different.

May, who said after Frazee was sentenced that he made “a deal with the devil” in the plea agreement with Kenney, said that he still felt three years was inadequate for her involvement in Berreth’s death. But he said he believed the deal was worth it in order to solve the murder case.

“You know, the right person is serving a life sentence right now. He’s the one who actually carried out the murder. What he did was horrific,” May said, referring to Frazee.

“And so, do I think that she should have gotten a lot more time? You betcha. Do I feel bad (that) she only got (sentenced to) three years today? You betcha. But in the end, we needed to solve this case. He needed to be held accountable for what he did. He’s the one who brutally murdered this woman,” May added. “So, yes, I guess you could say it was worth it. But at the same time, Krystal Lee got off way too light.”

May said he had previously spoken with the Berreth family about the sentence and described their feelings.

“I will say that in talking with the family, it does give them some closure today knowing that both Patrick Frazee will spend the rest of his life in prison and that she got the maximum sentence under this plea bargain — gave them some closure today,” he said. “How they will feel about that going out in the future? Only time will tell.”

Woodland Park Police Chief Miles De Young agreed that the three-year sentence was “inadequate” but was pleased that Judge Sells handed down the maximum sentence.

“I feel like Judge Sells took this to heart and he was able to give her what he felt in his mind was justice in the sentence he was handing out,” De Young said. “I don’t believe that three years is adequate for what she was involved in by a far cry, but at the end of the day, nothing’s going to bring Kelsey back, and that’s an unfortunate thing to have to deal with.”

He said police are no longer searching for Berreth's remains, though they still hope to find them.

May lamented sentencing guidelines, saying that it’s possible Kenney will get out of prison before completing her full sentence – or even half of it – because of good-time rules.

“The sentence you hear in the courtroom ought to be what the sentence (is) somebody receives in their case,” he said, adding that he would be at the legislature this year fighting for what he called “truth in sentencing.”

The case has taken a toll on him and all involved, he said to end the news conference, visibly holding back tears.

“I’ve gotten enough emotions as I think I can take today. It was tough on those jurors too, I know that. It was a highly-charged, emotional case for anybody in the courtroom,” May said, adding that he didn’t believe anyone understood the depravity of the murder until experts testified at Frazee’s trial.

“He deserves every day he got and then some,” May said.

Details of the February 2019 plea agreement

Following the November 2018 murder in Woodland Park, Kenney said she obeyed Frazee's commands to take Berreth's cell phone and drive back home to Idaho. He also asked for her to text Berreth's mother and Frazee from the cell phone to try to confuse investigators, she said. During Frazee's murder trial in November, she testified that she burned Berreth's phone and purse at her home in Idaho, put the ashes in a box, put the box in a plastic bag and dumped it in a trash bin on her way to work.

Less than a month later, authorities caught on.

On Dec. 17, 2018, Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents, along with the FBI, visited Kenney's home in Idaho. At the time, authorities suspected she had some sort of involvement in Frazee's then-alleged murder of Berreth. They suspected that Kenney may have disposed of Berreth's cell phone sometime in the days after Thanksgiving, when Berreth went missing from her Woodland Park home.

Kenney told the authorities she wanted to speak with her attorney before talking with the investigators, but would cooperate with them. During Frazee's trial, she told the courtroom that she felt she could talk freely at that point because she finally "felt safe" from Frazee. She obtained an attorney a few days later on Dec. 20, 2018.

Soon after, Frazee was arrested at his home in Florissant.

In February 2019, prosecutors offered Kenney a plea deal: plead guilty to tampering with physical evidence and agree to truthfully testify in Frazee's trial. She agreed.

An arrest affidavit was released later in February, which featured details Kenney provided to investigators about the crime.

During Frazee's murder trial in November, Kenney spent significant time on the witness stand describing her long-time tumultuous relationship with Frazee, his multiple plans to kill Berreth and his demands to clean the scene and use cell phones to attempt to confuse authorities after the murder.

Throughout the trial, she admitted to not alerting authorities, even as Frazee detailed the multiple ways he had planned to murder Berreth. She also admitted to not telling anybody about the murder afterward.

It was only after she had signed the plea agreement that she gave a formal statement to investigators and prosecutors, spilling all of the details she knew.

Kenney's testimony on Frazee relationship, Berreth's death

Kenney took to the witness stand for the first time in the Frazee trial on Nov. 6, 2019. She recounted the plot, the cleanup at Berreth's home and Frazee's account of the murder afterward. As she explained the entire story and how Frazee manipulated her, she broke down multiple times and cried.

She first gave a brief description of her relationship with Frazee: They met at the Teller County Fair in 2006 and their relationship began shortly afterward before ending in August 2007. After Kenney married her fiancé in 2010, she and Frazee started an affair in 2015. Kenney filed for divorce the following year. She became pregnant with Frazee's child and had an abortion in 2016 as well, and they stopped talking, Kenney testified.

They picked things up again in the middle of 2018, when Frazee and Berreth were engaged. Kenney said she noticed that Frazee started referring to Berreth only as "the mother of my child" and not her actual name. Frazee told Kenney that Berreth was abusing their daughter, who was 1 year old at the time, Kenney testified.

Frazee claimed that to save his daughter, he had to get rid of Berreth. In October 2018, he suggested spiking a coffee with a drug cocktail to poison Berreth. He asked for Kenney to bring the coffee to Berreth and make up an excuse to give it to her. Kenney said she bought a coffee from a local store but didn't spike it. Still, she brought it to Berreth's home and claimed that she wanted to thank Berreth for helping grab her loose dogs. Berreth was guarded during the interaction, Kenney testified.

When Frazee called Kenney the next morning asking what had happened, Kenney said Berreth must have not drank the coffee.

Frazee created a second plan shortly afterward in October. By this time, Kenney started to believe that Frazee was lying about Berreth abusing their child.

Frazee told Kenney to use a metal pipe to hit Berreth on the back of her head, Kenney testified. She brought the pipe to Berreth's home and opened the car door. She heard a dog bark though, so she left the home.

The next day, she told Frazee that she had backed out of that plan.

Frazee constructed one last murder plan for Kenney. The weapon this time was a baseball bat.

Kenney said she took the bat and sat on the ground outside Berreth's home before leaving.

In court in November, she said she feared “it was going to be her or me.”

On Thanksgiving Day 2018, Frazee called and texted her several times and seemed rattled, Kenney said in court. She was with family and did not respond until later that day, when he told her that she had a mess to clean up in Woodland Park and wanted to know how soon Kenney could get to Colorado. She said at this point she believed Frazee had killed Berreth or he was setting Kenney up to do so.

She arrived in Woodland Park early in the morning on Nov. 24 and walked into Berreth's home to find "a lot of blood" on the floor and walls, she testified. It was mostly dry.

“It wasn’t like a can of paint thrown on the wall,” she said in court. “It was like if you took a paintbrush and flicked paint on the wall.”

She spent four hours cleaning the home, she said, before grabbing food at a Sonic for Frazee and his daughter. She said he asked if she cleaned the place well and she said she did the best she could, to which he responded, "You better hope you did because our lives depend on it.”

He then described how on Thanksgiving Day, he had told Berreth to guess the scent of a candle while blindfolded before he struck her with a bat, killing her in her living room. Their daughter was in a back room at the time. He said he put her Berreth's body in a black tote and drove it to a ranch, where he put the tote on top of a haystack, Kenney testified.

On Nov. 25, three days after the murder, Frazee and Kenney retrieved the tote and brought it to his home in Florissant. Kenney watched as Frazee moved the tote into a trough, poured motor oil on it and set it on fire, along with the bat and other bloodied items from the home, she said.

Frazee then instructed Kenney to take Berreth's phone with her back to Idaho and to text Berreth's mother and Frazee along the way. Kenney complied before destroying the phone in her backyard, she testified.

In the days afterward, Kenney said she was scared that if she didn't continue to hide the situation from authorities, Frazee would do something to her or her family.

She finally brought her story to the light after investigators reached out wanting to talk about the case with her in mid-December 2018.

During the Frazee trial, the defense questioned why Kenney never alerted authorities or anybody else to Frazee's murder plot, despite having multiple opportunities to do so.

The defense also pointed out that Kenney had testified that she wanted to come forward because Berreth's family deserved to know what happened to her, yet she never notified the family of what she knew between Thanksgiving and Dec. 20, 2018.

What's next in this case?

On Monday, Frazee, who was charged with life in prison without parole plus 156 years in November 2019, filed a notice to appeal his conviction. May said it's to his understanding that under Colorado law, every first-degree murder conviction gets an automatic appeal.

"Generally, the odds are not in his favor, just if you look at cases like that," he said. "That doesn’t mean we don’t have reversals and the cases come back."

After the automatic appeal to the Court of Appeals, Frazee could go on to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to review the case, which is up to them, May said.

Frazee is currently at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley County.

He could face additional charges in connection to the letters he had written in prison to another inmate, asking the man to kill a list of people connected to his case when he got out. The list included Kenney, DA May, Kenney's ex-husband, witnesses and a CBI agent. That case was turned over to the 18th Judicial District.

"We got a special prosecutor because I’m one of the named people in there," May said. "So, we felt that, obviously there would be a conflict of interest if my office reviewed whether charges should be filed."

To date, Berreth's remains have not been located.

In the press conference following the sentencing, Woodland Park Police Chief De Young said the police department was not actively searching for Berreth’s remains because they have exhausted all leads. But he added that they are still looking for tips and committed to finding her remains, though police still do not believe she is alive.

“We have not located Kelsey’s remains," he said. "That’s one of the things I’d like to do, is give her family some closure to be able to bury their daughter."