CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — What one expert witness said is very likely a human tooth was found near a burn area on the Kelsey Berreth murder suspect’s property, but DNA evidence is inconclusive about who it belongs to.
That’s according to Wednesday afternoon’s testimony in the murder trial of Patrick Frazee, who is charged with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder, and tampering with a deceased human body for his alleged role in Berreth’s death. The body of Berreth, Frazee’s one-time fiancee and the mother of his child, has not been found.
Krystal Lee, who had a romantic relationship with Frazee that was on-and-off for more than a decade, claims that Frazee beat Berreth to death with a baseball bat and burned a black tote containing her body on his property.
Late last year, law enforcement unearthed a burn site that had been covered with gravel on Frazee’s Florissant ranch, and an arson investigator testified there’s evidence it contained both melted black plastic and possible human remains.
While sifting through the charred area, investigators found a fragment that appeared to be a tooth. Later, they sent it to Dr. Diane France, a forensic anthropologist who regularly analyzes cases in Colorado.
She was called to the witness stand on Wednesday as an expert in her field. France said she was able to rule out the possibility the tooth belonged to the horses, cattle, dogs, deer and elk that were also known to be on the Frazee family’s mountain ranch.
“I think this is a human tooth,” France said.
She also said the tooth was broken, which could indicate it either got so hot that it cracked or had been broken in another way.
“There’s no evidence it was heated to the point it would just crack hard, it looks like it was blunt trauma,” France said.
In response to a question from Prosecutor Jennifer Viehman, France confirmed that trauma could encompass being hit with a baseball bat, but it would be impossible to say for sure.
After France analyzed the tooth, it was sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which attempted to conduct a DNA test.
Caitlin Rogers, a forensic scientist with the CBI, was in charge of that analysis. She also took the witness stand on Wednesday afternoon, and said that when she swabbed the tooth, she was able to find evidence of human DNA.
Rogers said there wasn’t evidence of male DNA in the sample, but outside of that, she wasn’t able to glean additional information about who the tooth belonged to.
“I attempted to develop a DNA in the profile and unfortunately there was not enough DNA present in the profile,” she said.
The tooth was later sent to the FBI for what’s known as mitochondrial testing. This test also proved unsuccessful because scientists said there simply wasn’t enough DNA left on the tooth to gather any information.
This test, according to Rogers, required investigators to essentially grind the tooth fragment into a fine powder. The jury saw photos of the tooth, but will not be able to handle it during deliberation because it no longer exists.
Rogers also testified about the DNA found on various items in Berreth’s condo that tested positive for blood. This included near the fireplace, on the baby gate, two chairs that had been used as a TV stand, and on the floorboards.
The prosecution pointed to samples that contained Berreth’s DNA, though some of those swabs also included DNA that likely belonged to Frazee, Berreth’s mother and brother, and the last woman who lived in the condo.
Lee claims that Frazee killed Berreth on Nov. 22, 2018 — Thanksgiving Day. Lee said Frazee called her that night and said there was a “mess to clean up.” The next night, Lee said she drove from Idaho to Colorado to clean up a bloody crime scene in Berreth’s apartment.
After putting Berreth’s body in a tote, Lee said Frazee stored it on top of a hay pile at a ranch he leased to run cattle. A search of that ranch revealed black discoloration on a hay bale, but Rogers said CBI was not able to find human DNA on a sample taken from the area.
Lee said she went with Frazee to retrieve the tote before he burned it and other items related to the murder and ensuing cleanup.
Lee has pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence for disposing of Berreth’s cellphone. As part of an agreement with the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, she testified against Frazee.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case in the Frazee trial sometime this week. After the defense potentially presents its case, closing statements could happen as soon as Friday afternoon.
The trial began on Nov. 1 and was scheduled to last for three weeks, but is now significantly ahead of schedule.
9NEWS is in the courtroom and will provide updates during breaks. Due to a standing decorum order, no live coverage is permitted in the courtroom. For all of 9NEWS' previous stories go to 9NEWS.com/KelseyBerreth.
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