By LANCE BENZEL
Special from The Gazette
Florissant rancher Patrick Frazee cannot identify his mistress as the killer of his fiancee, Kelsey Berreth, when he heads to trial in Cripple Creek in late October.
The defense didn’t file notice by a Monday deadline, so they won’t get the judge’s permission to specifically name a different killer. That suggests a “general denial” defense that will test Frazee’s first-degree murder case at every level, from the reliability of witness accounts to the integrity of forensic testing and cellphone signal finding.
“They’ll try to raise reasonable doubt in every way they can,” said Elvin Gentry, a Colorado Springs attorney who isn’t tied to the case.
Jury selection is slated to begin Oct. 28.
Berreth, 29, who shared a toddler daughter with Frazee, went missing on Thanksgiving Day 2018 — the day authorities believe Frazee blindfolded her and beat her to death with a baseball bat in her Woodland Park condominium, as their child lay in a different room.
Authorities say Frazee later burned Berreth’s body on his Florissant ranch and disposed of some of her remains in a trash receptacle, leading to a weekslong, fruitless search of a Fountain landfill.
The missed court deadline would appear to cap speculation that Frazee will try to blame Krystal Kenney, the woman who pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing for cleaning blood at Berreth’s townhouse and disposing of her cell phone.
For an effective defense based on an alternate suspect, that suspect must have motive, opportunity and some other witness or piece of evidence connecting them to a crime, said longtime Colorado Springs attorney Phil Dubois, also uninvolved.
Short of that, running an alternate suspect could backfire by straining a jury’s credulity.
“If the jury says ‘No way,’ you are worse off than if you left open the question of who did it,” Dubois said.
Still, being barred from specifically naming Kenney doesn’t prevent the defense from leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or insinuations that point in her direction or someone else’s, said defense attorney David Foley, who is not involved in the case.
“They’ll ask questions, the jury will pick up on those questions, and they’ll run with it from there,” he said.
The lack of specificity also could turn into an advantage, Foley added.
“With an alternate suspect, you’re pinning everything on one person,” he said. “General denial leaves every option open.”