CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. (AP) — A woman said Friday that she helped thwart an investigation into the disappearance of a Colorado woman who authorities believe was killed by her fiance, but her motive and the nature of her relationship with the suspected killer remains a mystery. She also agreed to testify against him at his murder trial.
Krystal Jean Lee Kenney, 32, of Hansen, Idaho, made the admission in court as she pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence connected to the death of Kelsey Berreth, who was last seen on Nov. 22.
Berreth’s fiance, Patrick Frazee, is charged with murder and solicitation of murder in the 29-year-old woman’s death.
In a statement in court, Kenney said she learned that Frazee had killed someone around the time Berreth was last seen.
“I moved the victim’s cellphone with the intent to impair the phone’s availability in the investigation. I had no right or authority to move the victim’s cellphone,” she said.
According to Kenney’s statement, she moved the phone between Nov. 24 and 25.
She faces up to three years in prison but prosecutors said Kenney will not be sentenced until all trials related to Berreth’s disappearance are completed. Judge Scott Sells indicated that could take months or years.
She will remain free in the meantime and must attend periodic court hearings. Her agreement with prosecutors also prevents her from speaking with media.
Police have not found Berreth’s body but have said evidence suggests she was killed at her home in Woodland Park, a mountain town near Colorado Springs.
Berreth, who worked as a flight instructor, was last seen on surveillance footage at a grocery store near her home on Nov. 22, which was Thanksgiving Day. It shows Berreth entering the store toting a baby carrier holding her 1-year-old daughter.
Frazee told police he and Berreth met later that day to exchange their daughter; the couple did not live together.
Police said several text messages were sent from Berreth’s phone in the days following Thanksgiving, including a message sent to her employer asking for a week off of work.
Location data suggested that by Nov. 25 the phone was near Gooding, Idaho, nearly 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) from Berreth’s house and about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from where Kenney lived.
Police didn’t start searching for Berreth until Dec. 2, when her mother became concerned after several days without hearing from her daughter. Berreth’s mother called police from her home in Idaho to request that someone check on her daughter.
Since Frazee’s arrest in late December, authorities have released little information about what led to the charges against him. Key court documents have been sealed.
Frazee has not entered a plea in the charges of murder and solicitation of murder. He is due back in court on Feb. 19. The state public defender’s office, which is representing him, has said its attorneys will not comment on ongoing cases.
Prosecutors said Frazee sought to find someone to kill Berreth between September and November.
Authorities said in December that additional charges could follow Frazee’s arrest but there was no public activity until this week when prosecutors charged Kenney. They have not disclosed the nature of the relationship between Kenney and Frazee.
Public records show Kenney holds an Idaho license as a registered nurse. A spokeswoman at a Twin Falls hospital previously told local media that Kenney worked at the facility but said this week that she was no longer employed there.