CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — The Kelsey Berreth that her family knew wasn’t the woman whose face was plastered on missing person’s posters late last year. And that was the woman who was remembered in front of dozens of people under the most tragic of circumstances.
“She was our daughter,” wrote Cheryl Berreth, Kelsey’s mom. “A loving, devoted mother, a friend, and a valued pilot teaching the military how to fly. She was a positive contribution to society, beautiful inside and out.”
These words from her mother — and other people who knew and loved Kelsey Berreth — were read in open court Monday after the suspect in her death was found guilty of all charges.
The Berreth family asked that the killer receive the maximum sentence, and Judge Scott Sells agreed, giving him life in prison plus 156 years.
Berreth’s 2-year-old daughter remains in the custody of her family, who said they intend to adopt her.
“We’ve done everything we can to promote [Kelsey’s daughter’s] mental and physical health, and will do everything to do so,” Cheryl Berreth’s letter read.
In Kelsey Berreth’s memory, her family said they are setting up an aviation scholarship in her name. According to the family, the man who has been convicted in Kelsey Berreth’s death will be required to commit a certain amount of money to the cause.
“[The killer] took a shining light from this Earth, and we’ve heard over and over again from everybody who knew her,” said Jennifer Viehman, the lead prosecutor in the case for the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Scott Morin, Kelsey Berreth’s uncle, said he remembers his niece for her hugs.
“Not only was she loved, but she loved everyone else,” Morin said. “I’m sick to my stomach at what has taken place. We have questioned our faith. We have questioned just to know ‘why?’ And we know we’ll never know.”
Multiple people who worked with Kelsey Berreth at Doss Aviation also wrote letters to the judge praising her work ethnic and evident love for her daughter.
“She was a great pilot,” one coworker wrote in a letter read by Morin. “And you could tell she really enjoyed flying and teaching. She was a natural. Kelsey was a kindhearted and gentle spirit. That’s how I knew her. She was a joy for all of us to be around, and I truly appreciated her friendship.”
She had a photo of the baby girl on her desk, and a calendar of Bible quotes. The last one she read — dated Nov. 21, 2018 — was Philippians 2:13.
Prosecutors say Berreth died on Nov. 22, 2018, Thanksgiving Day. Cheryl Berreth said in her letter that the holiday has now been tainted for the family forever.
Nevertheless, her letter said the Berreth family never advocated that her killer receive the death penalty.
“We hope that [the killer] will take his time in prison to sincerely repent and seek his forgiveness,” Cheryl Berreth’s letter read. “We respect life and leave [the killer] in God’s hands. It’s not ours to take.”
Kelsey Berreth’s body has never been found, and just because her killer has been convicted, the lead investigator in her murder said their work is not done.
“We’ll always look for Kelsey,” Greg Slater said.
Viehman summed up the case in two words.
“She mattered,” Viehman said. “Kelsey mattered.”
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