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Investigators begin searching landfill for Kelsey Berreth’s remains

Crews arrived at a Fountain landfill Tuesday morning to begin searching for the remains of Kelsey Berreth. Patrick Frazee is charged in connection with her death.

FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Investigators arrived at a landfill south of Colorado Springs Tuesday morning to start their search for the remains of a missing Woodland Park mother.

Kelsey Berreth, 29, was last seen Thanksgiving Day. Patrick Frazee, who police initially described as Berreth’s fiancé and who shares a child with Berreth, is facing charges for killing her and burning her body.

Credit: Courtesy Woodland Park Police Department
Kelsey Berreth has been missing since Thanksgiving and her disappearance has since generated national attention.

Tuesday morning, investigators arrived at the Midway Landfill in Fountain, Colorado. They started their search at about 8 a.m., and say the search is expected to last several weeks.

Credit: Woodland Park Police
Patrick Frazee

During a hearing for Frazee earlier this month, investigators revealed why they believe Berreth’s body might be in a landfill. According to Krystal Lee Kenney, who was in a relationship with Frazee and allegedly helped clean up the crime scene, Frazee planned to dispose of Berreth’s remains in a river or a dump.

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Based on information they developed throughout the case, Woodland Park Police said they are now focused on recovering Berreth’s remains and any additional evidence at the landfill. WPPD said it received assistance from NecroSearch International to narrow the search area within the larger landfill site.

“It’s a slow methodical search. We don’t want to miss anything,” said WPPD Commander Chris Adams. “I think we owe it to Kelsey and her family to be as thorough as we can and find every piece that we can.”

Credit: Sky9
Investigators believe Kelsey Berreth was killed inside of her Woodland Park home.

WPPD said investigators will focus on a primary target area that is 135 feet by 32 feet by 9 feet (deep).

Adams said trash will be removed from the primary target area, then lined up and picked through piece by piece. WPPD said the search could take 35 days or longer. The search team will include local and state law enforcement agencies.

“We’re going to be looking for any human remains, any bones, anything to help us bring Kelsey home,” he said.

Investigators also revealed during Frazee’s hearing that he allegedly burned other items with Berreth’s remains, according to information they received from Kenney. She told police Frazee also burned a baseball bat he used to beat Berreth to death, as well as items from her purse and trash bags full of bloody items from Berreth’s apartment. 

Credit: Jennifer Meckles, 9NEWS
Investigators searching the Midway Landfill in Fountain.

Dr. Melissa Connor is a professor of forensic anthropology at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, where she also leads the Forensic Research Station. There, Connor studies how human bodies decompose in different environments, and how that research can be applied in searches for remains.

Dr. Connor said landfill searches involve careful, detailed work. First, investigators have to locate the right area within a dump to start searching. Connor said most landfills are actually highly organized sites.

“They have good GPS recordings on where every truck goes in,” she said. “So if they know, say, a dumpster location that the remains might have been in, they’ll know what truck picked that dumpster up and where that dumpster dumped its load in the landfill." 

RELATED: How a successful landfill search helped lead to a conviction in one of Colorado's most high-profile murders

Credit: 9NEWS
Investigators start searching the Midway Landfill in Fountain on Tuesday morning.

During the search, Connor said sections of trash will be removed and sorted through, individually.

“[Investigators will] take it out in dump trucks and find a place to spread it out and start looking through it, with the whole line of people going through all of the material,” she said.

“Then you scrape that up, put it to the side and put a new load into a staging area.”

Police believe Berreth’s body was burned, and may have been discarded months ago. However, Connor said human remains and evidence can often withstand destruction attempts and outdoor elements, being preserved within the layers of a landfill.

And the sooner a search begins, Connor says the better chance investigators have to find what they’re looking for.

“It’s a matter of taking the time, doing it piece by piece,” she said. “And landfill searches, particularly ones that start up relatively soon after the decedent was dumped are often successful.”

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