A tooth fragment found in the hunt for Kelsey Berreth of Woodland Park could provide a window into her apparent murder, authorities said Friday.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Scott Sells ruled that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation may destroy the tooth fragment if necessary in order to test it for blood and DNA evidence, batting down concerns by attorneys for the fiancee accused of killing her.
The hourlong hearing finally divulged the nature of an evidentiary item that has been discussed in court for several months and repeatedly tabled for another time.
Attorneys for Patrick Frazee, 33, had objected to some of CBI’s policies when the defense asks to have experts present during testing, including a requirement that those experts 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 provide further details or to characterize the importance of the testing.
Testimony at an evidentiary hearing earlier 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 fatally assaulted her 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 clear hurdle in the murder prosecution.
Investigators found several possible human teeth in envelopes during a search of Frazee’s 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 held without bond in the Teller County jail in Divide.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty in the case, El Paso County District Attorney Dan May said at a news conference afterward.
Frazee is due to return Aug. 23 for an all-day pre-trial motions hearing.