Colorado mom Kelsey Berreth vanished on Thanksgiving, sometime after meeting her fiancé to hand over their daughter in a custody exchange.
Everything was in order at Kelsey’s Woodland Park home. Cinnamon rolls were found cooled in her kitchen. Both of her vehicles were parked outside. Her makeup and luggage were untouched. Only her cellphone and purse were gone.
“Her voice was fine. It was a normal day for her,” recalled Kelsey’s mother, Cheryl, in an interview with NBC News this week.
But days later, Kelsey’s cellphone texted her job to say she wouldn't be coming in, and pinged a cell tower nearly 800 miles away in Idaho.
No one has been able to reach Kelsey since.
On Monday, police announced they were handling the 29-year-old pilot's disappearance as a “missing persons case” and that Kelsey’s fiancé, Patrick Frazee, was cooperative.
But Friday morning, cops executed a search warrant on Frazee’s 35-acre ranch in Florissant, about 34 miles west of Colorado Springs. The search comes two days after Frazee’s attorney released a statement indicating his client was cooperating with police by allowing them to interview him, search his phone and obtain a buccal swab for DNA.
Frazee’s red pickup truck was towed away from the property Friday, and Frazee and his daughter left the scene in the back of an SUV from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, according to reporters on the ground.
At a press conference Friday, Woodland Park Police Chief Miles DeYoung said that because Kelsey has been gone for 23 days, detectives now believe her “disappearance is more suspicious and that she is not intentionally avoiding efforts to find her.”
DeYoung declined to comment much further, saying the search warrant is sealed. He said the search will “take a number of days to finish,” and that his agency is requesting that Frazee meet with investigators, “since he is the last person to talk to Kelsey face to face.”
Still, the police chief stopped short of naming Frazee as a suspect.
“There have been numerous questions about whether Patrick is a suspect or a person of interest. At this point, we are considering every possibility, and I’m not willing to jump to conclusions or label people involved in this highly complex investigation,” DeYoung said.
Asked if he thinks Kelsey is still alive, DeYoung replied, “That’s absolutely a possibility and that is our hope.”
The disturbing case continues to be plagued with more questions than answers. DeYoung declined to comment on Kelsey’s custody arrangement with Frazee, or what her final text message to Frazee said.
In a statement following the search, Frazee’s attorney Jeremy Loew said, “We encourage law enforcement to take whatever steps it deems necessary to find Kelsey Berreth and to be able to exclude Patrick Frazee as a possible suspect in this missing person investigation.”
Frazee told cops he last saw Kelsey, a flight instructor at Doss Aviation, on the afternoon of Thanksgiving, when she dropped off their daughter. He claims he last heard from Kelsey on Nov. 25 via text message.
That day, Kelsey’s phone also sent a text to Doss Aviation, informing them she would be taking the following week off work. And the cellphone pinged near Gooding, Idaho at 5:13 p.m., police said.
Kelsey’s mother, Cheryl Berreth, reported her missing Dec. 2 after being unable to reach her. She contacted Frazee, who was caring for their infant daughter and who said he hadn’t spoken to Kelsey since her Nov. 25 text.
Berreth told CBS News that nothing seemed amiss when she spoke to Kelsey on Thanksgiving morning. Her daughter seemed “happy.”
“No big Thanksgiving meal at her home or anything like that,” Berreth said.
In an interview with NBC, Berreth said talked with Kelsey on the phone twice that day, and during one call, Kelsey asked for a recipe.
Kelsey and Frazee do not live together and don’t have a wedding date, Berreth told NBC. “The relationship has been good. They’re loving,” she said. “It hasn’t been ideal, you know, given the economy and things. They had plans that haven’t worked out as they would have liked. But they’ve dealt with that and they’ve made things work regardless.”
Berreth said the couple was planning to find a home of their own, but Frazee’s job as a cattle farmer had been impacted by poor prices.
The missing mom was last seen alive on Thanksgiving Day in a Safeway grocery store, according to the business’s security footage. In the video, Kelsey places her daughter, who is in a car seat, in the front of a shopping cart.
“She’s not the kind that runs off,” Berreth said at a press conference with police on Monday. “This is completely out of character.”
“Kelsey loves her God, she loves her family and friends, and she loves her job,” Berreth added. “She’s reliable, considerate, and honest.”
During the press event, journalists asked why Frazee never reported his fiancée missing. “That’s a question you’ll have to ask Patrick,” DeYoung answered, adding that he didn’t know why Frazee didn’t join the press conference. (Frazee’s attorney said he only found out about the media event an hour before it began.)
Little is known about the couple’s relationship—which has led to ample speculation on social media among armchair sleuths. The Berreth family has declined to comment on Frazee, who has not been charged or named a suspect in Kelsey’s disappearance. Frazee and his family have stayed mum on Kelsey, too, and haven’t attended vigils or media events.
One of Kelsey’s aunts posted in a Facebook group for truckers, describing Frazee as Kelsey’s “ex,” rather than her fiancé. (When reached by phone this week, the aunt declined to comment.)
“Our niece is missing and has been for a week,” the aunt wrote on Dec. 3. “Her phone was last pinged near Gooding Idaho. She told her ex when she dropped off their baby that she was heading to family in Washington. Please help us get the word out to the truckers in that area last week. If anyone has seen her contact the authorities immediately.”
“She broke up with her ex on Thanksgiving, he said she dropped off the baby and was heading to Soap Lake Washington to visit,” the aunt continued. “No one knew anything about the visit.”
The desperate search for Kelsey has taken a toll on her family.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Brandon Kindle, Kelsey’s brother-in-law, said their world has been flipped upside down since Kelsey vanished.
“This is someone who is near and dear to our hearts, who has vanished and we have no idea where she could be,” said Kindle, 36, who lives in Washington state and is the partner of Kelsey’s only sibling, her older brother Clinton.
Kelsey grew up on a farm in Moses Lake, Washington and went to a private Christian school before attending Big Bend Community College for her aviation training, according to one local report with iFIBER One News.
In 2016, Kelsey moved to Colorado, where Frazee’s family lives. When and how the couple met remains unclear.
Relatives have described Kelsey as a sweet, quiet woman who radiates a warm energy.
“When you see her, you want to give her a great big hug and squeeze her cheeks. You can feel the energy coming from her. She’s kind, compassionate and honest,” Kindle said. “She was like the sister I never had.”
Kindle said Kelsey takes a while to warm up to people, but that her relationships are meaningful; Kelsey focused on the quality of her friendships instead of quantity, he said.
The Berreth clan had planned to reunite in Idaho for Christmas. Kelsey’s parents, retired hay farmers, had relocated to Idaho in recent years. “The family is extremely close,” Kindle said. “She and her brother spoke multiple times a week, as well as her mom.”
“This was completely unexpected,” Kindle added.
When Cheryl Berreth learned her daughter hadn’t been heard from, “it was mission time,” Kindle said. “Everything happened in the blink of an eye.” Cheryl and her son, Clinton, immediately flew to Colorado to search for Kelsey.
“Now [Clinton] is an only child who has a sister that’s missing. We cannot even fathom the thought—what if we never find her?” Kindle said. “I just pray to God that she’s gonna come up safe. I pray every day that something’s going to break [in the case].”
Kelsey would never leave her baby, Kindle said. “Kelsey was so excited. It was a different chapter, something that brought so much joy,” he said.
When they spent time with Kelsey, Clinton and Kindle were always outdoors. They’d go paddle boarding, canoeing or bike riding.
Kindle said he loves to tease his sister-in-law. “I just say things. I’m a spitfire. She would look at me and say, ‘Seriously? Did you seriously do that?’”
During one canoe excursion, Kindle sat in the middle, with Clinton and Kelsey in front and back. “The canoe tipped, and my scream was so loud I probably cleared the entire state of bald eagles,” Kindle recalled. “She was so embarrassed. She’d do an eye roll and say, ‘I hope no one just saw that.’ Those were the moments that you remember forever.”
“I just love her to pieces,” Kindle said. “I need my sister-in-law back. Someone knows something. We need to get her back.”
Kelsey’s cousin, JoDee Garretson, was praying Friday that the search warrant on Frazee’s property would lead to answers.
“I am literally sitting on the edge of my seat, dying to see what is happening. I am praying that they find Kelsey there, that she couldn’t previously leave,” Garretson told The Daily Beast.
“The world needs people like her,” she added. “Keep praying for her and her family. This isn’t over. Kelsey needs to be found.”
Garretson described Kelsey as a sweet, loving “country girl” who loves horses, hiking and the outdoors. “She looks like such an angel, and I think that she is,” Garretson said. “She’s the kind of person where you feel better when you’re around her.”
“Somebody’s gotta know something,” Garretson added. “It just doesn’t seem real that something truly bad could have happened to her.”