A Colorado appeals court on Thursday ordered a new sentencing for an Idaho woman imprisoned in connection with the murder of Kelsey Berreth, who was killed by her fiancé in her Woodland Park condo on Thanksgiving Day in 2018.
Krystal Lee Kenney, 34, took a plea deal after being accused of plotting to kill Berreth and of cleaning up the murder scene. She pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence and admitted that she drove Berreth’s cell phone from Colorado to Idaho and disposed of it at Patrick Frazee’s request.
Kenney had an intimate relationship with Frazee, the man who was convicted in November 2019 of killing Berreth, 29. Her body was never found.
Kenney lost a bid for parole last year, and her attorney has argued that her sentence was too long. A three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals agreed, ordering the case to be returned to 4th Judicial District Court Judge Scott Sells for resentencing. Appeals Judge Neeti Pawar wrote the opinion. Judges David Richman and Lino Lipinsky concurred.
“She’s serving an unconstitutional sentence,” her attorney, Dru Nielsen, told The Colorado Sun. “The judge did not have the ability to sentence her up to three years. There is no basis for aggravation.”
Kenney’s original sentence has been nullified because, according to Thursday’s appeals court ruling, “the district court erroneously sentenced her outside the maximum term.” Kenney is being held at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.
Kenney, a former nurse, received the maximum sentence of three years in prison on Jan. 27, 2020, followed by one year of mandatory parole. So far she has served 13 months of that three-year term. The maximum, without the aggravating factors, is now 18 months.
Kenney apologized to Berreth’s family at her sentencing last year.
“I know saying I’m sorry is not good enough. I don’t even know what the right word would be to describe the remorse that I feel,” she said. “I’m sorry Kaylee will not have her biological mother … and I’m sorry to everyone who’s been affected by this horrible tragedy. I am sorry that I could not save Kelsey.”
Kaylee Berreth is Kelsey Berreth’s now-3-year-old daughter she had with Frazee. Kaylee is now in custody of Berreth’s parents.
But Sells told Kenney that what she did was “… cold, calculating and cruel.” Sells added: “Simply saying I’m sorry is not enough. You made an ongoing, multi-day effort to tamper with evidence that spanned hours and hours and hundreds of miles.”
Nielsen said that statement constituted aggravating factors for Sells when he sentenced her client. “There is no basis for aggravation,” Nielsen said.
“She shouldn’t be in prison anymore,” Nielsen told The Sun.
Kenney had an on-again-off-again romantic relationship with Frazee. Kenney was a key witness in the case, flying to Colorado from her home in Idaho to reveal to investigators what happened to Berreth. Prosecutors said Kenney helped them crack the case, showing investigators where Berreth’s body had been hidden and then burned later on Frazee’s property in Flourissant, Colorado.
Kenney said she visited Colorado three times at Frazee’s insistence to help kill Berreth, but she testified that she couldn’t go through with the crime. She testified that Frazee killed Berreth with a baseball bat.
Frazee is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, plus 156 years.
Due to the coronavirus, Kenney has been unable to see her two children, said her uncle Collin Kenney, of Parachute. He said her family is relieved with the news that she will likely be back home sooner than they thought.
“Her actions within the prison should show that she has complied by all of the rules,” Kenney said. “She was willing to do her time and that was her mindset. It will be great for her to see her kids earlier than she thought she would.”
Teller County Court Clerk Sheila Griffin said Kenney’s re-sentencing date has not been set, and it is not known whether she will appear in person or via video.
At Kenney’s sentencing, Nielsen showed a video portraying Kenney as a strong, caring person who loved horses and who went into nursing because she wanted to help people. In stark contrast, Berreth’s mother, Cheryl, wrote a letter saying “the only thing she didn’t do is swing the bat” that killed her daughter.
Berreth’s family had no comment when called Thursday.