A Colorado man accused of fatally beating his fiancée last Thanksgiving before enlisting his secret girlfriend to clean up the murder scene was found guilty on Monday.
Patrick Frazee, 33, was found guilty of all six charges related to the slaying and disappearance of 29-year-old Kelsey Berreth, including two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The cattle ranger was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus 156 years, after the verdict.
Prosecutors argued on Nov. 22, 2018, Frazee fatally beat his would-be wife to death with a baseball bat before burning her body and the murder weapon at his family’s ranch. The cattle rancher then enlisted the help of his secret girlfriend, Krystal Lee, to clean up the crime scene, according to her testimony.
“While Kelsey Berreth is planning a future, the defendant—this man, this man—is plotting her death,” said prosecutor Beth Reed said in her closing statements Monday, while jabbing her finger in Frazee’s direction, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. “His intent was to kill her and finish her off, since she was a problem to him. She was a problem that he needed to go away.”
“You are being asked to ignore your common sense and the direct evidence and listen to the circumstantial evidence that supports a story made up by Krystal Lee,” Frazee’s public defender Adam Steigerwald, said in his closing arguments.
The verdict came after less than four hours of deliberations, culminating an three-week trial where jurors listened to over 80 witnesses, viewed thousands of submitted evidence, and heard shocking testimony about Frazee’s alleged previous attempts to murder the mother of his child and government witnesses before the trial.
Family members, supporters, and curious civilians crowded the century-old Teller County courthouse on Monday as the verdict was read. While Berreth's family reportedly hugged one another and wiped tears, Frazee sat emotionless and stared straight ahead at the jury.
In an emotional letter read in court during the sentencing hearing, Berreth's mother Cheryl said her almost son-in-law “tortured” Berreth to death, leaving their toddler daughter to “call out for mama in the middle of the night.”
“He not only killed our daughter—his child’s mother—but he chose a horrible death for her,” Cheryl Berreth said, according to the Gazette.
Berreth, a flight instructor at Doss Aviation, was last seen on Nov. 22, 2018, at a Woodland Park Safeway grocery store pushing a shopping cart with her 1-year-old, Kaylee. Ten days later, Cheryl Berreth filed a missing person's report after not hearing from her daughter since Thanksgiving.
At the time, Frazee told authorities he last saw his fiancée on Thanksgiving Day, when she dropped off their daughter at his home and received a text from her three days later. But photos displayed in court from Berreth’s neighbor’s surveillance camera reveal Frazee at his fiancée’s front door 11 times throughout the day.
Lee, who testified in court as part of her plea agreement, told jurors Frazee called after the slaying and said: “I need your help, and I need your help now. You have a mess to clean up.”
The Idaho nurse—who had a tumultuous on-and-off relationship with Frazee for more than a decade—told jurors the 33-year-old said he killed Berreth with a baseball bat after telling her to put on a blindfold for a “candle smell test.”
Lee said Frazee relayed that as he was beating his fiancée while their daughter was in the other room, Berreth begged, “Please stop.”
“He just said he swung away, and that it was really hard," Lee told the jury, noting that Frazee said that next time he would "stick to normal weapons."
Lee described how Frazee told her to “get the candles wiped up, get the bathroom done, and wipe up the footprints” during their frantic four-hour cleanup of Berreth’s apartment. She testified she purposefully “left little spots” of blood “so that somebody would see and it would raise suspicion about what had happened.”
“Is there anybody that believes that? It is absurd. This is the foundation upon which the prosecution has built their case, and it cannot rely on those two things: the timeline and Lee’s story,” Frazee’s defense attorney said on Monday, claiming the Idaho nurse invented the story to get her off the hook during police questioning.
Jonathyn Priest, a former Denver police officer who specializes in blood pattern analysis, testified that Frazee hit his future wife about 10 to 15 times with the bat, based on the blood spatters found at the scene.
“People aren’t easy to kill," Priest said, according to The Denver Channel. "They’re very resilient. And beatings are nasty in that they don’t really have the effect that they have on television.”
After the cleanup on Nov. 24, the two went to Frazee’s ranch where Lee said he set Berreth’s body on fire, along with several trash bags. Lee pleaded guilty in February to evidence tampering for her role in covering up Berreth’s murder and will be sentenced next year.
Lee told jurors she agreed to help Frazee after he asked for her help murdering his fiancée three times—each time rationalizing the request by claiming Berreth abused their toddler and he needed her help. The nurse said while she initially agreed to each murder scheme, she later grew suspicious and eventually backed out before every murder attempt.
“His little girl is being abused,” Lee testified on her thought process at the time. “I understand if it was wrong. I didn't know what to do so I didn’t make correct decisions.”
But in November, Lee testified she went along with Frazee’s scheme to trick authorities after the murder and took Berreth’s cellphone to Idaho before burning it. Authorities previously said on Nov. 25, Berreth’s cell phone pinged off a cell tower in Gooding, Idaho—nearly 800 miles away from the missing mom’s home in Woodland Park.
Steigerwald argued against Lee’s “crumbling” testimony on Monday, noted to jurors Lee did not tell authorities Frazee beat Berreth until after the plea agreement was finalized and a “prosecutor’s signature was on the dotted line.”
“There’s not an image of Frazee with a drop of blood on him. Not one. If Krystal Lee’s description of this scene is accurate, why is there no evidence on any of his clothes? Why is there no image of PF leaving? Why is there no DNA from Frazee from inside Berreth’s washing machine?” Stigerwald said.
Frazee, who lived on a 35-acre ranch with his mother, was arrested and charged with his fiancée’s murder on Dec. 21. One Colorado inmate testified on Friday as a surprise witness that, after being incarcerated, Frazee tried to ask for help in arranging the killing of a key witness in his case.
The unnamed inmate told jurors Frazee sent him several napkin notes, ranging from a request for him to use his prison gain connections to instructions on how to “carry out the hits on the witnesses.”
Greg Slater, an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, also that Frazee targeted several people in his messages, including Lee.
“They all need to disappear or be unseen until at least Nov. 22 until after the trial,” Slater said, reading one note in court. “I’d really like to see Krystal with a bullet in her head.”
Steigerwald slammed the prosecution’s claim Frazee asked a fellow inmate to perform several hit jobs, saying the witness did not prove anything.
“That is not proof of anything,” the defense attorney said. “That is proof of him being an idiot. It is not proof that he committed murder; it is not proof that he knew he was guilty.”
He added: “If it is your plan to murder someone, you don't tell half the people you know. Patrick Frazee came off like a complete and total fool. That doesn’t make him guilty.”