FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Investigators on Tuesday began searching the Midway Landfill in the city of Fountain for the remains of missing Woodland Park mom Kelsey Berreth whose fiancé, Patrick Frazee, is charged with her murder.
Authorities will also be looking for other possible evidence in the case and could be at the landfill, which is in Fountain, police said.
Authorities will search for eight hours a day for 35 days, according to CNN. The 10 searchers will have to scour 686,805 cubic yards. In total, the primary target area is 135 feet by 32 feet and 9 inches deep. The bigger search area is 250 feet by 125 feet and 25 feet deep.
The estimated timeframe could change based on their progress, Woodland Park Police Commander Chris Adams told CNN. An excavator will remove the trash to another location and lay it out in lines so that searchers can sift through the material, he said.
Searchers will typically set up a grid and a create subsections, then remove material layer by layer to another area for closer inspection, Vicki Wedel, an associate professor of anatomy at Western University of Health Sciences in California, told CNN.
Searchers pass the material through a wire mesh so they can look at it as closely as possible, she said. That's why it takes so long.
An expert from NecroSearch International, which assists law enforcement agencies in searching for human remains, helped the Woodland Police Department narrow down the search area for Berreth, Adams said.
The department did not reveal any more details about how they narrowed the target landfill search area, according to CNN.
Searchers will look for bones and teeth with sufficient DNA for a positive identification. Even though Krystal Lee Kenney, who was charged with tampering with evidence in connection to the case, told police that Berreth had been burned, an associate professor of anatomy in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Scottsboro, Arizona told CNN that it takes an extreme blaze for multiple hours to significantly reduce a body.
In addition, landfills are "decompositional microenvironments" unto themselves, Wedel told CNN, meaning they have active animal and insect colonies that can contribute to reducing human remains to bone faster than in other settings.
The landfill has been a focus in the missing mother’s case in the past. In January, Waste Management confirmed that they were in contact with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations about a possible search.
During a preliminary hearing on Feb. 19, it was alleged through interrogation from Kenney that Frazee may have dumped Berreth’s remains in a landfill or a river after allegedly burning her body on his property. But it’s not clear what possible evidence authorities may have that links the Fountain landfill, which is 40 miles from Berreth’s home, to the case.
Kenney told investigators that Frazee repeatedly asked her to kill Berreth and Frazee admitted beating the 29-year-old flight instructor to death with a baseball bat. After the murder, Frazee removed the body from Berreth’s home using a tote, which was set on fire on Frazee’s property using motor oil and gasoline, according to an arrest affidavit.
Frazee has been charged with two counts of murder and three counts of solicitation to commit murder, as well as tampering with a deceased body and two crime of violence sentence enhancers. The 32-year-old man will face a murder trial at an unknown date.
A motions hearing has been scheduled for March 4 and an arraignment was set for April 8 at 8:30 a.m., which will give Frazee’s defense attorneys time to go through the more than 3,300 pages of evidence in the case. Frazee is expected to enter a plea in the case at his arraignment.
The couple’s year-old daughter remains in temporary custody of Berreth’s parents pending another hearing set for April 4.