Rancher gets life in prison in beating death of his fiancee (copy)

Gazette file This undated file booking photo provided by the Colorado Springs Police Department shows Krystal Lee, who pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence in the disappearance of Kelsey Berreth.

CRIPPLE CREEK • An Idaho nurse will be sentenced next month for helping a Florissant rancher cover his tracks in the murder of Woodland Park mother Kelsey Berreth.

A judge Monday set a Jan. 28 sentencing date for Krystal Jean Lee, the former mistress who became a star witness against Patrick Frazee, supplying testimony that helped convict him of first-degree murder, capping a nationally watched trial.

Prosecutors say Lee, 33, who lives near Twin Falls, faces up to three years in prison if Teller County District Judge Scott Sells decides to impose a penalty in the aggravated range.

But Lee’s attorney said in court that she intends to argue that the aggravated range doesn’t apply.

That would reduce her potential maximum to 18 months. Lee, who has no criminal record, is also eligible for probation.

Formerly known as Krystal Kenney, Lee sat quietly at the defense table in a beige sweater and skirt. She didn’t address the judge, and evaded reporters afterward by ducking through a side door with her attorney, both escorted by sheriff’s deputies.

Regardless of the sentence she receives, many onlookers — Berreth’s mother Cheryl among them — say she’s getting off easy, with the dead woman’s mother accusing Lee of doing “everything but swing the bat.”

District Attorney Dan May called the plea bargain a “deal with the devil” necessary to achieve justice.

During testimony that spanned two days at Frazee’s trial in Cripple Creek, Lee helped cinch a conviction by supplying details that no one else could know, which she said Frazee freely confessed after calling her up on Thanksgiving Day, and telling her she had “mess to clean up.”

Crying at points, Lee detailed how she traveled from Idaho to Woodland Park to clean up a blood-drenched scene at Berreth’s condo.

She told how Frazee described covering Berreth’s face with a sweater before beating her to death with a baseball bat, even disclosing the dying woman’s last words: “Please stop.”

Attorneys for Frazee tried to paint Lee as a liar, saying she invented a “story” blaming Frazee to get herself off the hook after attracting scrutiny from investigators. But her account led to the discovery of important evidence, including blood under the floorboards of Berreth’s home and a tooth fragment found at Frazee’s ranch.

In her plea agreement, Lee confessed to sending messages from Berreth’s phone several days after the killing to make it look like she had skipped town.

In exchange for her cooperation, Lee was exempted from additional charges for initially participating in three prior failed schemes to kill the 29-year-old Berreth. Each time, Lee backed out at the last minute. In one case, Lee said Frazee asked her to deliver poisoned coffee to Berreth. Lee ended up giving Berreth the coffee but didn’t spike it with drugs.

Frazee, 33, was convicted Nov. 18 of all counts against him, including first-degree murder and solicitation of murder, and sentenced to life without parole plus 156 years in prison.

Patrick Frazee case: 'Deal with the devil' came at a cost after Kelsey Berreth death
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