DA’s Office Still Mulling Possible Death Penalty In Horrific Murder
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Last week, murder suspect and Florissant resident Patrick Frazee was back at the Cripple Creek courthouse on two separate occasions.
On Thursday, Frazee attended a custody hearing for the young daughter he shared with his former fiance, missing Woodland Park woman Kelsey Berreth.
And then on Friday, he showed up in court for a motions hearing having to do with consumptive evidence.
The custody hearing was another court date set for the ongoing battle regarding the parenting rights Frazee and Berreth’s 1-year-old daughter. Shortly after Frazee was arrested, Child Protective Services (CPS) took custody of the girl and awarded temporary custody to Cheryl Berreth, the maternal grandmother.
Since then, Frazee’s mother Sheila Frazee, filed a motion in court to get custody of the child. During Thursday’s hearing, the courtroom was closed to the public and it is unknown what was decided on during the court session.
On Friday, Frazee returned to Cripple Creek for a hearing on whether the prosecution could destroy a piece of consumptive evidence in order to test it for DNA. According to state law, a judge must decide whether evidence can be destroyed during the testing process.
According to the prosecution team, the particular item is a tooth or a fragment of a tooth that was found during the search conducted at Frazee’s Florissant residence.
The court session started with a telephone testimony from Caitlin Rogers, a forensic science specialist who works for the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) crime lab in Pueblo. During her testimony, Rogers described the lab’s policies and procedures when testing potentially consumptive evidence.
She said that in most cases when testing items for human DNA, the piece in question is split in half so that the crime lab can test half of it, while the other half is given to the defense team in case they want to conduct separate testing. However, when the item in question is small, the crime lab must get a court order to destroy the entire item to test it for DNA.
According to their policies, the defense team is allowed to hire an independent expert to enter the crime lab and watch the testing process. The individual picked by the defense must get their background checked, and submit a buckle swab or DNA test before entering. If during the testing process the forensic specialists determine that they can split the item, the defense’s forensic expert must then leave the lab during the rest of the testing.
After the testimony was given, Frazee’s defense attorney Ashley Porter presented two objections to the judge. These had to do with the CBI crime lab’s policies and procedures during consumptive testing. The first objection presented by Porter had to do with the buckle swab DNA testing required for their forensic expert. “Buckle swabs are a bit intrusive,” Porter said.
The defense attorney then asked the judge to allow their expert to stay inside the lab, even if the CBI forensic team discovered that they could split the item. Porter argued that the defense team’s expert was in the crime lab to oversee the entire testing process.
However, District Court Judge Scott Sells disagreed and would not let the defense change any of the crime lab’s policies or procedures. “The court is not to dictate to CBI against any policies in order to protect the integrity of the process,” the judge said during his ruling.
The defense team was then given two weeks to pick a forensic expert for the testing. Once picked the defense expert must go through a background check and submit a DNA test used due to the chance of contamination, according to the CBI crime lab’s policies.
After the hearing, District Attorney Dan May answered questions from the press outside the courthouse. He would not comment on whether or not the prosecution would be seeking the death penalty but he did say that the district attorney’s office still has several weeks to decide if they think capital punishment is an option.
Frazee, who has already made a not guilty plea, is set to stand trial for murder and other related crimes in late October. The trial could become the most watched court proceedings that have occurred in Cripple Creek recent history.