TELLER COUNTY, Colo. — In a small courthouse in the tiny mountain city of Cripple Creek, the murder trial of Patrick Frazee — a case that has captured national attention — officially began.
On Friday morning, a jury of seven women and five men was seated. Two men and two women were selected as alternates. Opening statements began at 2 p.m. Friday, and prosecutors as well as the defense outlined how they plan to prove Frazee's guilty or innocence, respectively, throughout the three-week trial.
Frazee, 33, of Florissant is accused of murdering his 29-year-old fiancée Kelsey Berreth of Woodland Park on Thanksgiving Day 2018. He's also accused of soliciting Idaho resident Krystal Lee Kenney, who he had dated, to help him carry out the murder. He faces eight charges, including first-degree murder, tampering with a deceased body and solicitation. While he pleaded not guilty to the charges, Kenney took a plea deal, pleading guilty to a tampering charge and agreeing to testify at Frazee's trial.
To date, Berreth's body has not been found.
Twelve jurors, four alternate jurors seated for trial
The potential jurors on Friday were asked an array of questions, including how Frazee could have a fair trial with so much publicity surrounding the case and their thoughts on circumstantial evidence versus direct evidence. The potential jurors were also asked if they had heard somebody had been killed, would they first suspect the victim's husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend?
Frazee, who in previous court appearances had worn the standard county jumpsuit, appeared Friday in a blue and white striped button-down shirt. He paid close attention to the jurors as they answered the questions and leaned in to hear them speak. In prior court appearances, Frazee looked down most of the time.
Jurors also expressed an array of concerns: the major time commitment for the trial, health problems, the overall enormity of the case, with such significant consequences for the people involved. Many of the jurors said they had not paid attention to media coverage of the case or didn't believe what media has reported.
Prosecution details how they plan to find Frazee guilty
Prosecutor Jennifer Viehman was the first person to speak to the jury Friday afternoon. One of the first things she said, as she pointed to an ATM surveillance picture of Frazee on a slideshow, was, "This is the case of a cold, calculated manipulator."
“This man,” she said, pointing at Frazee in the court room, “is a killer.”
Viehman described Frazee and Berreth's relationship as "very complicated." They had met online in 2016 and after meeting in person, Berreth, who lived in Washington, decided to move out to Colorado, where Frazee lived. But she lived in a condo in Woodland Park, about 20 minutes east of Florissant. She didn't have a job at first and was unfamiliar with her new home, Viehman said.
In October 2017, they had a child named Kaylee. They were still living apart. Between the new baby, commuting to Pueblo for work and a new home, she was exhausted and it was "just not working well for her," Viehman said.
Meanwhile, Frazee was "poisoning" almost everybody he knew against Berreth, Viehman said. He was telling people — including Kenney — that Berreth was a bad mom, an alcoholic and abusive to the baby. He told people Berreth abandoned the baby and left the child with him, Viehman said.
In September 2018, Frazee told Kenney that Berreth was abusing the baby and he had asked "people" to keep their eyes on her, Viehman said. He claimed Berreth was dangerous and he asked for Kenney's help "taking care of this" or "an innocent is going to be harmed," Viehman said.
That same month, Frazee and Kenney planned to put "something" in a caramel macchiato to make her "go away," she said. Frazee asked Kenney to do this, but Kenney brought the coffee to Berreth's home — without anything abnormal in it and without knowing Berreth — and thanked Berreth for putting her dogs away. Berreth explained she did not put any dogs away.
Frazee was upset afterward, but told Kenney she'd have another chance because "people go missing all the time," Viehman said.
They tried again in October, this time with a pipe as the weapon, she said. Frazee allegedly instructed Kenney to hit Berreth on the back of the head with the pipe, put her body in a garbage can and drag it down the road, Viehman said. But when Kenney arrived at the house one night with the pipe, she heard dogs barking and, frightened, left the pipe at the home and drove away.
A week later, Frazee called Kenney and instructed her to bring a baseball bat from home, and allegedly told her to "go to swinging," and to put the body in the dumpster or somehow get rid of it, Viehman said.
Krystal drove to Berreth's home, but sat on the curb with the bat, wondering how she got into that position, Viehman said. She was fearful for Kaylee because of all Frazee had told her, but she was also starting to pick up clues that what he had said may not have been true, Viehman said. Still, she was fearful that if she didn't do what he instructed, something would happen to her family.
She left the home and drove to Frazee's home, where he was very upset, Viehman said. He claimed that he must have a bigger heart than her and care more about Kaylee than she does, the prosecution explained.
Things quieted by mid-November and Kenney started to think that everything was going back to normal, Viehman said.
But on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day 2018, Frazee allegedly killed Berreth with a baseball bat after covering her eyes with a sweater and asking her to smell different candles.
Frazee then put her remains in a black tote in the back of his truck, Viehman said.
That day, he called Kenney, who was in Idaho, and said she had a mess to clean up and to come to Berreth's condo. Kenney felt that she was in too deep and that her family was endangered, Viehman said.
When she walked into the apartment two days later on Nov. 24, she found a "horrible scene."
"There’s blood everywhere. There’s blood on the walls. There's blood on the fireplace. There’s blood on the couch. There’s blood on items in the kitchen. Hobby lobby bags. Children's toys," Viehman said.
She also presented photos showing the specks of blood on a baby gate, the toilet and fireplace, in addition to numerous surveillance photos that showed Frazee at Berreth's front door, at the gas station and at an ATM that day.
Both Frazee's and Kenney's phones pinged down in Nash Ranch, where Kenney told prosecutors they took Berreth's body in the tote and put it on a rusted old horse trough on his property. He told Kenney not to look inside as he put gas and motor oil in the trough and set it on fire, Viehman said.
At a later date, Kenney would bring investigators back to that exact spot, which had been covered in dirt, and when uncovered, would show scorch marks and a possible human tooth fragment, Viehman said.
The prosecution's case also hinges on cell phone records, as the cell phones belonging to Frazee, Berreth and Kenney, or just Frazee and Berreth, traveled together often in the area in the days after the alleged murder. Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 4, Frazee called Kenney 46 times and never called Berreth. The prosecution claims this was part of Frazee's elaborate plan to distract police.
At the end of the prosecution's opening statement, Viehman said the jury will understand why Frazee is guilty of murder by the end of the trial.
"We’re going to ask you to hold him accountable for all he did," she said.
Defense aims to poke holes in Kenney's testimony
In response, the defense compared the case to a beautiful house with serious foundation issues — while the case looks solid and good from the outside, if you look in each corner and see the evidence, the jury will see deep issues, said Ashley Fridovich Porter, one of Frazee's attorneys.
“What you have not yet heard is the raw and unedited version," she said. "All of these facts that don’t make sense. All of the facts that actually support Patrick Frazee not being the one (guilty) in the disappearance of Kelsey Berreth."
Porter said the prosecution's case is reliant on what Kenney has said.
But Kenney lied to police and the FBI when they initially asked if she knew Berreth or had any information on her disappearance, Porter said.
She then hired an attorney and took a plea deal where she could ultimately end up spending no time in jail in exchange for testifying at the trial. She only spilled the whole story — all the details of the alleged murder — after she struck the deal with prosecutors, Porter said.
Her story doesn't line up, Porter said, pointing out that if Kenney had seen such a gruesome, bloody scene at Berreth's condo, the surveillance camera that showed Frazee going into the apartment, allegedly murdering Berreth, and then leaving again would have shown Frazee bloodied. But he was in the same outfit he arrived in, with no stains, Porter said.
When law enforcement went to Berreth's home, they didn't find any evidence that a violent crime had happened. When they returned later and found DNA evidence, including blood belonging to Berreth, they also found blood that belonged to an unknown person, she said.
"There are so many parts of Krystal’s story that are simply not corroborated by any other evidence," Porter said.
Berreth has never been found and therefore is still considered a missing person. Additionally, no weapon has been found, no witnesses from the day of the crime have come forward, and there was no clear motive uncovered, Porter said.
What's more, Frazee has maintained his innocence, been cooperative with law enforcement and agreed to all the testing investigators asked for, Porter said. Meanwhile, Kenney has burner phones, destroyed phones, destroyed evidence, cleaned up evidence and told countless lies, she said.
Prosecutors call Berreth's mother as first witness
The first witness the prosecution called to the stand was Cheryl Berreth, Kelsey Berreth’s mother.
Viehman initially asked Cheryl about her daughter’s upbringing on a farm and her interest in aviation, which turned into her career.
The prosecutor then asked about how often Cheryl and her daughter talked. Cheryl said they spoke often and it wasn’t unusual for them to call each other every day. They were very close. That relationship continued when Berreth left Washington to move to Colorado with Frazee.
That move happened in May 2016. Frazee, Berreth and her parents loaded a trailer with her possessions and the couple drove from Washington to Florissant. Frazee had purchased Berreth a studio apartment, where she lived when she first moved there. Berreth and Frazee never lived together at any point in their relationship, though Berreth would often visit for weekends, Cheryl said.
However, before moving in, Berreth spent a night at Frazee’s home, which he shared with his mother, because they had driven into Colorado late in the evening and decided they’d unpack everything the following day, Cheryl said. Based on what Berreth had told her later, Frazee’s mother had accused her of being a hooker the following morning, Cheryl said.
She said she believes Berreth and Frazee’s mother were able to work past the incident, but the feelings didn’t go away, she said.
After working other jobs, toward the end of July 2017, Berreth nailed down a job with DOSS Aviation and worked there until her daughter Kaylee was born on Oct. 5, 2017. She then took maternity leave.
Once they were discharged to the hospital, Berreth and the baby returned home to her condo, where they lived together. They stayed there until May 10, 2018, when they moved to another condo in Woodland Park.
Come early October 2018, Berreth’s parents flew out to Colorado to celebrate Kaylee’s first birthday. Berreth, her parents and Frazee spent the day together in her condo. Cheryl said their stay was short — they planned to visit for Christmas too. They were not planning on visiting around Thanksgiving Day.
When asked by the prosecutors, Cheryl confirmed that in both July 2018 and October 2018, when she visited Colorado, Kaylee appeared happy and healthy.
When asked to describe Cheryl’s communication with Berreth on Thanksgiving Day 2018, Cheryl said they spoke over the phone a few times that morning. Berreth had told her they’d gotten home from checking on the cows late the previous night, Frazee had felt ill and she had offered to go to the store to pick up some food. Upon hearing this, Cheryl texted Frazee, saying she hoped he would feel better soon.
He replied, “Thank you and happy Thanksgiving,” Cheryl said, tearing up in the courtroom. She said she replied, “Happy Thanksgiving to you too.”
Cheryl confirmed that her daughter made no mention of an argument or unusual behavior from Frazee. She said she was sure Berreth would have said something to her if their relationship had hit a rocky patch. But the opposite seemed true — Berreth had been looking to purchase a ranch in the area and had even looked at places with Frazee and Cheryl, her mother said.
Their conversation that Thanksgiving morning was uneventful, Cheryl said. They talked about how Berreth had made cinnamon rolls earlier that day and how Kaylee had only wanted Honey Nut Cheerios. They talked about getting a Christmas tree. And the conversation ended when Berreth had to attend a dirty diaper, Cheryl said.
That was the last time Cheryl spoke with her daughter.
Two days after Frazee allegedly killed Berreth, Cheryl accidentally called her daughter's phone and hung up. She later received a text from her daughter’s phone, which read that Berreth would call the following day. Prosecutors believe that Frazee sent this message to Cheryl.
Cheryl said she didn’t think anything of it when she didn’t get a call from Berreth the following day. However, by Dec. 2, 2018, she still hadn’t heard from her daughter. When she tried to call, it went straight to voicemail. Concerned, she reached out to Frazee, who told her over a 20-minute conversation that they were no longer together because Berreth wanted her own space. Cheryl said she was surprised to hear this since Berreth had not mentioned this previously. Frazee said she may have moved away, but he didn’t know. Cheryl said she thought this was unlikely.
When she asked Frazee to go to the Woodland Park condo to check on Berreth, Frazee said he had to check on his cows, but would go over afterward, though “she wouldn’t want to see him,” Cheryl said. She said she didn’t care about that — she just wanted to know if Berreth or her car was at the condo.
Cheryl called police that same day. She said she had a “gut feeling something bad had happened,” even though police didn’t find any sign of a struggle inside the condo. The following day, Dec. 3, Berreth’s parents flew out to Colorado. They searched her condo, looking for signs that indicated Berreth had left on her own accord. But her luggage, makeup (which she’d never leave home without, Cheryl said), hair items, toothbrush and more were all there. The cinnamon rolls she had told her mother she made on Thanksgiving morning were still on the stove. They were hard as rock, she said.
The only things they noticed were missing were her purse, keys and iPhone.
The prosecutors brought up three pictures of the condo at this time:
- The first showed her kitchen table, with stale bread, sparkling cider, live flowers, some papers and a laptop on it.
- The second showed the view from the front door. The living room area was very sparse with little furniture. A wooden chest she had used as a footstool had been pushed up against the fireplace, which Cheryl said she thought was odd. They also noticed smears all over the apartment, from the loveseat to the stove. The toys Cheryl and her husband had bought for Kaylee for her birthday were also missing.
- The third photo showed the four stale cinnamon buns on the stove, along with a plug-in candle that was still on.
Friday’s trial period ended after the prosecutors showed this final picture. It will continue Monday morning.
Prosecutors decided in July to not file a motion in pursuit of capital punishment, meaning Frazee will not face the death penalty in this case if he is found guilty.
Live tweeting and live reporting is not allowed in the courtroom, per a court decorum. The trial is expected to last three weeks.