Lawsuit filed against Patrick Frazee
Shyann: Did a custody battle lead to the disappearance and murder of a Colorado mom? Her parents certainly think so. In new court documents, Kelsey Berreth’s parents say her fiancé Patrick Frazee killed their daughter because he wanted full custody of the couple’s child. They say Berreth would not agree to that.
Now, Berreth has been missing since Thanksgiving Day. Police believe she was murdered. Page Pate is a federal attorney. He joins us now to answer some of these questions, to kinda clear some things up for us. Based on this, do you think this new court filing could…what is that telling us about custody? Do you think this is linked to a possible motive here?
Page: Well, certainly, the parents think that. And, obviously, they want justice for their daughter. So what they’re doing, I think, by this lawsuit, is trying to point out to the investigators, to the public that he made, Frazee made a lot of inconsistent statements at the time that she went missing. And so, perhaps, they’re hoping, through this lawsuit, they can get to the truth, they can find out if the reason for her disappearance had something to do with this custody dispute over their child.
Shyann: And this is separate than the wrongful death.
Shyann: So why would they do this?
Page: You know, it’s an unusual lawsuit. Most of the time, when you have a child who’s died, or a husband, or anyone that you’re close to in the family, you’ll file a wrongful death lawsuit. And that way, you’re hoping to get damages as a result of the murder, or however the person may have died. This is a different kind of lawsuit.
They’re basically suing Frazee because he lied to them, and they’re trying to get damages for the emotional distress those lies caused. I think the real reason for this lawsuit is just to keep the case in the eyes of the public, the eyes of the media, and to make sure the investigators continue to focus on solving this crime.
Shyann: You feel like it’s really hard for this family to even get closure, because they’ve yet to, you know, to have a body. What about…do you think this will make it to trial?
Page: No, I don’t think this particular lawsuit will make it to trial. I think what normally happens in these cases, the civil lawsuits, the money lawsuits, they get paused. They kinda get pushed to the side while the criminal case proceeds. So, once the criminal case is over, we may see a trial in the wrongful death case, but this new lawsuit for emotional damages, I think it gets added to the wrongful death case and then we’ll see what happens.
Shyann: At what point do you think that, you know, bringing up a secondary lawsuit would help, you know, or start to rehash, you know, some of the hurt and emotion? But you’re saying maybe the flip side, they want to just keep this out in the open.
Page: I think that’s true. I mean, normally, in a civil lawsuit like this, you could take depositions, you could interview the other person who’s involved, you could try to locate witnesses and find out what they may say about the case, and then, of course, turn that over to the investigators if you wanted to. But I don’t think we’re gonna see that kind of activity in this case. I think what we see from this lawsuit is what the parents think really happened, and they think that he lied about it, and some of the things that Frazee said certainly does support their assertion that the motive here was about their child.
Shyann: And even if it was, I mean, now, I mean, his chance of having custody are very slim, obviously.
Page: Oh, right, right.
Shyann: So it didn’t help either way.
Shyann: Page Pate, thank you so much for your expertise on this.
Page: Thank you, Shyann.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.