Grand Junction man pleads guilty to killing mother

Richard Vandervelde
Richard Vandervelde(KKCO/KJCT)
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 8:00 AM MDT|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 8:50 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKTV) - A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to killing his mother after her remains were found stuffed down a manhole at the home they once shared.

Sylvia Frens, 82, of Grand Junction went missing in 2018. According to court documents obtained by 11 News sister station KKCO, Frens’ son Richard Vandervelde took out more than $10,000 from her account after she disappeared and left the state. The following month, Vandervelde popped up in Missouri when he was pulled over for a traffic stop. KKCO reports that detectives with the Grand Junction Police Department traveled to Missouri to ask him about his mother’s disappearance. They were reportedly told by Vandervelde that Frens had gone to California with a friend.

Three years passed, and another family moved into Frens’ home. KKCO reports that in April 2022, the current owner discovered a trash bag stashed in 6-foot-deep manhole in the backyard. Detectives responded and found what appeared to be a mix of animal and human remains. DNA tests would confirm the human remains were Frens.

KKCO, citing a detective, reports that the manhole was hidden under concrete and river rocks in 2018.

“I was looking at the photographs from 2018 compared to what it looked like now. In 2022, when it was discovered. I believe over time, some of those rocks were kicked around and eventually exposed to this piece of concrete. I think it was pretty well-hidden in the property,” Detective Zac McCullough told the station.

A neighbor who was friends with Frens told KKCO she couldn’t believe she was only feet away from them all this time.

Richard Vandervelde was arrested in Florida in June and brought back to Colorado. He initially pleaded not guilty to the murder before changing his plea last week to guilty of second-degree murder.

He will be sentenced May 26.