Rancher gets life in prison in beating death of his fiancee

CRIPPLE CREEK, COLORADO (AP) – A Colorado rancher was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday shortly after a jury convicted him of beating his fiancée to death with a baseball bat and setting the woman’s remains on fire to hide the evidence.

Patrick Frazee was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges after the jury deliberated four hours.

Less than an hour later, a judge sentenced him to the life term, plus 156 years, the mandatory sentence after prosecutors previously decided not to seek the death penalty.

“Your actions were vicious, senseless, without reason or explanation,” Judge Scott Sells told Frazee. Prosecutors said Frazee, 33, killed Kelsey Berreth, a 29-year-old flight instructor and the mother of their one-year-old, in her home. She was last seen with her infant daughter on a grocery store video on Thanksgiving Day 2018. Her body was never found.

Frazee showed no reaction to the verdict, while Berreth’s family sobbed and hugged one another.

With little physical evidence, prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Krystal Lee, a former nurse who has known Frazee for over a decade, and the location of Frazee’s and Berreth’s cellphones in the days after she disappeared.

Lee, who lives in Hansen, Idaho, testified that Frazee asked her to clean up the scene of the killing and that she watched him burn a plastic tote she believed contained Berreth’s body.

Lee acknowledged she took Berreth’s cellphone with her to Idaho at Frazee’s request to try to deceive investigators about Berreth’s whereabouts. She reached a plea deal with prosecutors for tampering with evidence and faces up to three years in prison.

Frazee’s lawyers used the plea deal to question how honest Lee was about what happened since she initially told authorities she did not know who Berreth was.

Patrick Frazee is led out of the Teller County Courthouse in Cripple Creek. PHOTO: AP