11 News investigates: Possible reasons why Frazee won't face death penalty if convicted

Published: Jul. 30, 2019 at 9:18 AM MDT
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The man accused of beating and killing his one-time love and mother of his child goes to trial later this year.

When he does, the death penalty will be off the table.

11 News was the first to report the decision last week

Monday, 11 News reporter Catherine Silver sat down with a former prosecutor to get more insight into that decision.

Patrick Frazee is accused of killing Berreth last year and hiding her body. To date, no remains have been found.

That fact is one of several factors in why the 4th Judicial District took capital punishment off the table.

"They don't know the circumstances under which she died. They are assuming she died simply because they cannot find her," Dave Webster told Silver.

Webster said there are also other factors involved besides simply whether a defendant committed murder.

"With regard to the death penalty, there's a specific statute that addresses it, and what that specific statute says is that a jury has to make a determination with regard to death and whether death should be imposed, and they have to do it beyond a reasonable doubt.

"So the way that it plays out, you have the trial, and then after the trial, the jury still sits there and then the district attorney presents additional information to them on aggravating circumstances. And then the jury makes the determination as to whether those aggravating circumstances are sufficient to impose death.

"Those aggravating circumstances don't appear to be there in this case. There's the possibility that some of them could be, but I could see why the district attorney does not know."

Webster compared the Frazee case to a hypothetical one involving abduction.

"If you kidnap the victim and then cause the victim's death, then that could potentially lead to the death penalty," he told Silver. "The problem in this case is it's quite likely [Berreth] went with him voluntarily, so there wouldn't be a kidnapping."

Other aggravating circumstances could be a monetary interest, such as trying to score insurance money through a murder. On the other hand, a possible motive in the Frazee case, child custody, would not necessarily qualify as aggravating.

"In looking at the statute, there are 17 possibilities for aggravating factors. I don't see this as hitting one of them."

The death penalty is rare in Colorado. It has only been used once in the 42 years since it was reinstated, and that was in 1997.

Last year, the 4th Judicial District sought the death penalty for

It was El Paso County's first death penalty trial in 10 years.

A jury rejected the death penalty in Galloway's case, and he is currently serving life in prison.