CRIPPLE CREEK • Displaying a picture of Patrick Frazee on a large screen in court, a prosecutor on Friday lifted the curtain at the Florissant rancher’s long-awaited murder trial — raising her voice to a bellow.
“This is the face of a cold, calculating manipulator!” prosecutor Jennifer Viehman called out, highlighting a surveillance image of Frazee in a red pickup, allegedly on his way to fatally beat his fiancee, Kelsey Berreth, in her Woodland Park condominium.
Not so, said the defense, which dismissed the case against Frazee as a “tale” cooked up by Frazee’s mistress, Idaho nurse Krystal Lee Kenney, to escape jail time after she attracted investigators’ scrutiny.
Public defender Ashley Porter compared the case against him to a house with unseen cracks.
“It looks good from the outside,” she said. “It looks like it’s all there, but when you really start hearing the evidence and hearing the facts you are going to realize deep foundational issues with this case.”
The defense, which did not seek the court’s authorization to name an alternate killer, did not offer a theory of the crime, except to say Frazee wasn’t involved.
Among those in the gallery, in the front row, were Berreth’s parents and brother. Berreth’s mother, Cheryl Berreth, was the prosecution’s first witness.
Before a packed courtroom with creaky seats and poor acoustics, Cheryl Berreth took aim at Patrick Frazee’s claims that his relationship with Kelsey Berreth had deteriorated in the days before her Thanksgiving Day disappearance, and she batted down the idea that Kelsey Berreth would give up custody of their daughter, Kaylee, as Frazee told police.
“Kaylee was Kelsey’s life,” Cheryl Berreth said. “Her world revolved around Kaylee.”
If Kelsey Berreth had decided to leave Frazee, as he told investigators, Cheryl Berreth would have heard about it, she said.
Softspoken and matter of fact, Cheryl Berreth kept her composure until the moment she was asked if she had communicated with Frazee on Thanksgiving Day — when authorities say he blindfolded Kelsey Berreth with a sweater and beat her to death with a baseball bat as their child lay in a different room.
“I said something along the lines of ‘Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re feeling better.’
“He said, ‘Happy Thanksgiving to you, too,’” Cheryl Berreth said, swallowing hard and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. She said her daughter had told her that Frazee had been up late the night before with a stomach ailment — and that Kelsey Berreth was awake until 4 a.m. because she had gone to get him medication.
After three days of jury selection beginning Monday, attorneys settled on a nine-woman, seven-man panel, including four alternates.
Most on the jury said they had followed some accounts of the case against Frazee but vowed to put them out of mind and focus on the evidence.
Several jurors offered withering assessments of the media, potentially easing concerns by the defense after months of complaints over what they called slanted coverage.
Frazee, 33, a Cripple Creek native, wore a blue-striped Western shirt with pearl buttons, open at the collar with a T-shirt showing. He listened intently and consulted with his attorneys as they decided whom to dismiss from the jury.
Each side got 14 peremptory challenges that allowed them to reject jurors for virtually any reason, as presiding 4th Judicial District Judge Scott Sells put it.
Frazee faces several felony charges, including first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder and tampering with a deceased human body. If convicted of first-degree murder, he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
The prosecution’s opening outlined allegations previously aired in court.
Using a slideshow for assistance, Viehman gave an overview of cellphone evidence, surveillance imagery and blood found in Berreth’s condo to build the picture of a murder conspiracy by Frazee.
First, he poisoned everyone in his life against Berreth, Viehman charged, none more so than Kenney, with whom he’d had a decadelong, on-again, off-again fling.
Frazee sought to convince Kenney that Berreth was an abusive mother who had to be “taken care of” before harm befell Kaylee. Prosecutors say his claims that Berreth burned the girl and hit her on the head were fabrications meant to secure Kenney’s cooperation and silence.
Viehman relayed three occasions on which Kenney went to Berreth’s home at Frazee’s behest, intending to kill her. One of those times, Kenney was supposed to deliver a poisoned caramel macchiato to Berreth — her favorite drink. Kenney demurred each time, telling him she wasn’t capable, Viehman said.
The defense countered that Kenney “lied” about Frazee’s involvement to get off the hook after admitting that she cleaned up a “horrific” crime scene at Berreth’s condo.
“They did not tell you that Krystal Lee (Kenney) did not voluntarily go to police,” Porter said. “They had to track her down.”
Porter added: “It’s not until after she’s cut a deal that then she tells this tale.”
Despite Kenney’s claims of a blood-drenched living room, investigators managed to find only a “few tiny, miniscule drops” of blood and some staining under a floorboard.
“That’s it,” Porter said. “That is what you’re going to see.”
Defending Kenney, Viehman said much of the evidence in the case, including the area of his Florissant ranch where authorities say Frazee burned Berreth’s remains, wouldn’t have been found without her assistance.
When investigators dug into the burn scar, they found evidence of accelerants and a possible human tooth, Viehman said.
Berreth’s remains haven’t been found, despite a two-month search of the Midway Landfill in Fountain. Kenney has pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and faces up to three years in prison at sentencing, which will be held after the Frazee case concludes.
During roughly an hour on the stand, Cheryl Berreth recounted how she ventured to her daughter’s condominium to investigate her Nov. 22 disappearance after going days without hearing from her.
Cinnamon rolls were left uncovered on table, “hard as rocks.” Bread Kelsey Berreth had bought to make a Thanksgiving dip had also gone stale. There was no sign that Kelsey had left town, as Frazee claimed.
And though there were no overt signs of trouble, something seemed amiss, she said.
“When the sun was shining it looked like everything had been wiped.”
Cheryl Berreth is expected to be cross-examined by the defense when testimony resumes Monday morning.