A client says Patrick Frazee didn't behave like a guilty man before his arrest in the killing of Kelsey Berreth, whose body police are still trying to find
The day before his arrest in the murder of his still-missing fiancée, a Colorado man gave no indication that he was worried.
To the contrary, Patrick Frazee thought that as the investigation ramped up and calls flooded his cell phone, client Clinton Cline might have trouble getting through — and so Frazee reached out first, sharing a new cell number with Cline, who worked alongside Frazee to care for a protected herd of wild donkeys in the small town of Cripple Creek.
“He’s very conscientious about his work,” Cline tells PEOPLE of Frazee, a farrier who, at least twice a year, arrived to trim and care for the hooves of the donkeys that roam free in the historic former gold mining camp near the base of Pike’s Peak.
“He had the health and the well-being of the donkeys’ interest at heart,” Cline says.
Given the circumstances — Kelsey Berreth, Frazee’s 29-year-old fiancée and mother to their 1-year-old daughter, who by then had been missing for 28 days — “I think that’s the last thing I would have been doing at that time, calling my customers and giving a new cell,” Cline says.
But while conceding it “sounds strange,” Cline believes Frazee’s actions suggest he had nothing to hide.
“If the evidence shows up that he did do it, I’m going to be one of the most shocked people you’ve ever seen,” says Cline, who is president of the Cripple Creek organization that protects the wild animals. “I know everybody always says that. But it doesn’t fit his persona to do something like that.”
Another client of Frazee’s, Sonja Oliver, who trusted the care of her horses to him for five years, spoke to reporters before his arrest attesting to Frazee’s good character. But she tells PEOPLE the accusations made public against him have since changed her mind.
“We all know what happened now,” she says.
Authorities have said they “do not believe Kelsey is still alive” and are searching for the body of the pilot instructor from Woodland Park, who hasn’t been seen in public since Thanksgiving, when surveillance video recorded her and her daughter entering a local market.
Frazee, 32, who did not live with Berreth, told police that he and his fiancée met up that same day so Berreth could hand off their daughter to him.
Berreth’s mother, who lives out of state, reported her missing 10 days later, on Dec. 2.
Cline tells PEOPLE that some media accounts have misrepresented the relationship between Frazee and Berreth, at least as Cline understood it.
While authorities have declined to discuss the couple’s custody arrangement, Cline says Frazee was the primary caretaker for their daughter — and would have had no reason to know immediately that Berreth had gone missing.
He also contends that Berreth had disappeared on other occasions and returned. Police have not confirmed any such incidents from Berreth’s past.
A spokesman for Berreth’s family tells PEOPLE they are not giving interviews.
“She’s not the kind that runs off,” her mom told reporters on Dec. 10, her voice shaking with emotion. “This is completely out of character. Kelsey loves her God, she loves her family and friends and she loves her job.”
Police have released few details of their investigation, except to say they are pursuing leads in Idaho, where the missing woman’s cell phone pinged nearly 600 miles from her home about three days after she was last seen.
“Mr. Frazee hopes and prays for Ms. Berreth’s return,” his attorney at the time, Jeremy Loew, said in a Dec. 14 statement to PEOPLE, even as authorities searched Frazee’s home and 35-acre property in Florissant, about 15 miles west of Woodland Park.
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Frazee was arrested last week without incident on suspicion of first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder, and remains in the Teller County Jail.
Loew has since been replaced as Frazeee’s attorney by a public defender, with Loew telling PEOPLE his representation was only for a specific period of time. State public defenders are barred from commenting on pending cases.
Woodland Park Police Chief Mies De Young said at a news conference last Friday that additional arrests were possible.
Frazee, who has not yet entered a formal plea to the allegations against him, is due in court later this month to be officially charged.
Police who announced Frazee’s arrest said last Friday that the couple’s daughter had been taken from him and paced in protective custody.
Berreth’s parents, Cheryl and Derrel, were granted continued temporary custody at a hearing Thursday, reports Denver TV station KDVR; the custody case will resume on Jan. 3.