It's happened again. Yet another horrific Colorado crime — the reported murder of Woodland Park mom Kelsey Berreth, who disappeared in late November — has grabbed the attention of the nation, as well as press across the planet.
The media coverage of a preliminary hearing February 19 in Cripple Creek, at which a judge determined that there's plenty of evidence to try Patrick Frazee, Berreth's fiance, for the crime even though no body has been recovered, reached a new peak. But the coverage didn't end there.
Indeed, details about the gruesome scene sourced to Krystal Lee Kenney, an Idaho nurse who was having an affair with Frazee (and admits to helping him clean up after the slaying, in a manner of speaking), ate up major chunks of national newscasts on CBS and other networks this morning. And expect the story to keep unspooling in anticipation of Frazee's arraignment, scheduled for April 8, and undoubtedly beyond.
One measure of the public's fascination with the Berreth tragedy: A Google search of Kelsey's name in quotes this morning scored 758,000 hits. That's more results than were triggered by searches for six (count ’em, six) members of President Donald Trump's cabinet, including Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie (215,000), Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (364,000), Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (382,000), Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta (590,000), Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (631,000) and even Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (748,000).
The level of interest in Berreth's fate closely follows the widespread obsession with another Colorado crime, which led to the August 2018 arrest of Frederick's Chris Watts for the murder of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, three-year-old Celeste and four-year-old Bella. Watts later pleaded guilty for these acts. A lawsuit was subsequently filed to prevent him from profiting from his deeds, and an auction is planned to sell the house where the homicides took place.
Like the Watts family killings, the Berreth disappearance shares common ground with other Colorado crimes that have held a grip on the national imagination — among them, the 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey, the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
All of these incidents involved people who resided in a wonderful place and seemed to have ideal lives when their world was shattered by horror. Photos of attractive victims accompanied stories like this one about Berreth from the Daily Mail, which illustrates the global reach of the saga.
And then there are the jaw-slackening tales of depravity shared by Kenney, who's already pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and has agreed to testify against Frazee.
Kenney claims that Frazee made three attempts to kill Berreth before actually succeeding.
Last September, Kenney says, he asked her to slip Berreth a poisoned caramel macchiato; next, he wanted her to attack Berreth with a metal pipe in a parking lot near her residence. Finally, Kenney told investigators, Frazee suggested bashing her with a baseball bat — the same type of weapon he allegedly used on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, more than a week before Berreth was reported missing.
The new information provided in testimony on February 20 by Gregg Slater, an agent for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, added even more bizarre twists.
Slater told the court that Frazee had beaten Berreth to death while her one-year-old daughter was in a room nearby, then sat down for a nice Thanksgiving dinner.
After driving to Colorado from Idaho, Slater continued, Kenney said she donned a sanitary suit and rubber gloves before helping to tidy up the room where the attack had happened, tossing items too bloodstained to save — even a spattered Bible.
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However, Kenney insisted that she left some blood spots behind so that investigators would be able to find evidence of what had gone down, and also claimed that she later allowed Berreth's phone to ping in locations such as Grand Junction, Salt Lake City and Gooding, Idaho, to further point the finger at Frazee.
Referencing Kenney, Slater said that on November 24, Frazee took Berreth's body from a container kept in a barn and burned it in a trough, generating such a conflagration that it alerted his mother, before disposing of the remains in parts unknown.
That's enough drama for multiple true-crime podcasts, documentaries or Netflix series, all of which could be coming down the line. But as people across the country follow every aspect of yet another Colorado victim's fate, too few of them stop to think that this was a real person, with a real child and real friends and real loved ones left stunned and reeling by these revelations.
And the next time something awful happens to a photogenic Coloradan, they'll be glued to their screens again.