By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado man accused of bludgeoning his fiancé to death with a baseball bat last year pleaded not guilty on Friday to murdering the young mother whose body has yet to be found, a court official said.
Patrick Frazee, 33, was arraigned in Teller County District Court in Cripple Creek, Colorado on charges stemming from the November disappearance and presumed slaying of Kelsey Berreth, court spokesman Rob McCallum said in a statement.
Frazee, who is accused of killing Berreth and then burning her body, has been held without bond since his arrest in December. He pleaded not guilty before District Court Judge Scott Sells to counts of first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder and tampering with a deceased human body.
The judge set an Oct. 28 trial date, McCallum said.
Frazee is represented by the public defender's office, which has a policy not to comment on its cases outside of court.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Frazee faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, although he could face the death penalty.
District Attorney Dan May has not said whether his office will seek capital punishment.
Berreth, 29, was last seen on Nov. 22 when a security camera captured her entering a grocery store in the mountain town of Woodland Park, about 90 miles southwest of Denver, where she lived with their one-year-old daughter, Kaylee.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Frazee blindfolded Berreth inside her townhouse, beat her on the head with a baseball bat, and then burned her body.
Searches of Frazee's ranch outside the town of Florissant and at a nearby landfill failed to turn up the victim's remains, police said.
Krystal Kenney, an Idaho nurse with whom Frazee had a relationship, told investigators Frazee tried to persuade her to kill Berreth but she refused, and Frazee later told her how he carried out the crime, the affidavit said.
Investigators were led to Kenney by tracing cell phone calls between her and Frazee. She pleaded guilty in February to evidence tampering, and as part of a plea bargain, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. A sentencing date for her has not been set.
A judge has granted temporary custody of Kaylee to Berreth's parents, who have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Frazee in federal court in Denver. The lawsuit claims Frazee murdered Berreth to get sole custody of the girl.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)