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Teller County Sheriff deputies lead Patrick Frazee, 33, out of the Teller County Courthouse in this file photo.

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CRIPPLE CREEK • A tooth fragment found at a murder suspect’s Florissant ranch could shed light on the apparent slaying of his fiancee, Kelsey Berreth, authorities said Friday.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Scott Sells ruled that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation can destroy the tooth fragment if necessary to test it for blood and DNA evidence over objections by attorneys for Patrick Frazee, who is accused of killing Berreth and disposing of her body.

Prosecutor Jennifer Viehman said after the hearing authorities found the tooth fragment during a search of Frazee’s property, citing a court filing. She provided no further details.

The hourlong hearing was the first time prosecutors revealed that a tooth fragment is the item for which they are seeking a judge’s permission for “consumptive testing.”

The term means that the item is so small that forensic testing would leave no extra material for further testing in case of mistakes or new technology — leading to a defense challenge to test protocols. The issue has been discussed at previous hearings and repeatedly tabled.

Attorneys for Frazee, 33, want a defense expert present during testing, and they objected to some of CBI’s policies, including a requirement that their expert be subjected to a background check and that they submit a cheek swab for DNA analysis.

Citing testimony heard Friday by a CBI scientist, Sells ruled that the swabs are necessary to rule out possible DNA contributors in the case of sample contamination at the lab, and said the background checks weren’t intrusive.

The defense has two weeks to identify the expert who will attend the testing, at which time a test will be scheduled, prosecutors said. They declined to characterize the importance of the testing.

Testimony at an evidentiary hearing this year revealed allegations that Frazee killed Berreth in her Woodland Park townhouse on Thanksgiving Day, the day she was last seen. He allegedly covered Berreth’s head with a sweater and beat her to death with a baseball bat, knocking out at least one of her teeth, before allegedly burning her remains on his Florissant ranch.

Her remains haven’t been found, however, a hurdle in the murder prosecution.

Investigators found possible human teeth in envelopes during a search of the ranch.

Investigators believe some of Berreth’s remains were thrown into a trash receptacle, leading to a weekslong search of a Fountain landfill that ended this spring without notable discoveries.

Testimony and legal argument came as Frazee sat in a green bullet-resistant jacket at the defense table, mostly quiet but occasionally chatting with an attorney. Frazee’s mother, Sheila Frazee, sat a few feet away near the front row of the gallery.

Frazee, who has pleaded not guilty, remains in the Teller County jail in Divide, where he is being held without bond.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty in the case, El Paso County District Attorney Dan May said afterward.

Reporter

I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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