By Logan Smith

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — New details emerged this week in the case of a 36-year-old mother of two young girls now facing felony child abuse charges. Kaylee Messerly and her daughters were found March 11 by search and rescue teams in the backcountry 10 miles north of Craig. They were a mile from their car, which was stuck in the mud on Moffat County Road 54.

By the time rescuers reached the three on all-terrain vehicles, Messerly’s 18-month-old daughter, Emma, was dead. Alena, her 3-year-old daughter, was flown by medical helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Aurora for treatment of severe frostbite. She had her lower legs amputated and is to this day still fighting infection, a family member told CSB4.

The family member added that Alena went home Thursday from the hospital, albiet temporarily. She is scheduled to undergo further surgery.

Alena during her first day home from the hospital earlier in April. (credit: Lisa Hernandez)

Messerly, meanwhile, appeared in court Thursday for formal filing of charges.

Court authorities released this week the arrest affidavit to CBS4. In it, key details uncovered by investigators serve to illuminate the confounding circumstances of before and during the family’s two-night stay in the wilderness.

Messerly told detectives she “wanted to get the children out of the house” on a nice day to collect rocks, but then the car became stuck and they waited for help. As dark settled in and snow began to fall, Messlery said she and her daughters walked toward what she thought was a residence. It instead turned out to be a pump house for oil and gas production.

Messerly described to investigators her attempts to huddle over the children in the darkness and then falling asleep. When she awoke, Emma, the 18-month-old, was dead.

Investigators found Emma wearing a coat but without socks, shoes, or a head covering.

Later, they searched inside Messerly’s car. They found several children’s shoes, a “thick, heavy blanket,” and children’s coats of various weight – all items that may have protected the children.

They also learned the pump house, located approximately 300 yards from the car, was unlocked and heated by the equipment laboring inside.

Kaylee Ann Messerly (credit: Moffat County Sheriff’s Office)

As authorities laid out the case for her arrest, they framed drug use as a large factor in what happened.

Initial tests conducted at Craig Memorial Hospital showed Messerly had traces of methamphetamine, amphetamines, and THC in her system.

At Children’s Hospital, her 3-year-old daughter also tested positive for methamphetamine.

Messerly blamed both test results on “eating snow around an oil rig tank that has ‘methane gas’ written on the side,” as stated in the affidavit. One of her daughters did the same, she said, but the other did not.

The affidavit refers to an earlier drug history, pointing out Moffat County Department of Human Services records that show Messerly tested positive for methamphetamine after giving birth to one of her daughters. The affidavit does not specify which daughter nor the date of birth.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the tow truck driver who came to retrieve the Volkswagen from County Road 54 told detectives he had recognized it from two earlier encounters. The first was last December, where the tow truck driver found the Volkswagen stuck on the side of the road and Messerly dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt – not clothing appropriate for winter in Colorado. Messerly told the tow truck driver she was “thinking” while driving around the countryside, although she was out of gas and had no money, which the tow truck driver found perplexing, according to the affidavit.

After putting gas in the car and getting it back on the road, Messerly began crying, per the affidavit.

“I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know if I want to be here anymore,” Messerly said, according to the tow truck driver’s recollections.

When he reminded her she could drive away, she responded, “that’s not what I mean.”

The tow truck driver later called 911 to report his concerns about Messerly’s well-being.

On March 7, two days before taking her daughters to County Road 54, the tow truck driver encountered Messerly a second time, this time after she had locked her keys in her car. She derided him for calling authorities on her in December, he told detectives. Messerly angrily told him she “wasn’t suicidal.”

He went to say that Messerly stated, “It was none of your f—ing business of what I was doing or where I was at, and if I was suicidal, I would take my G-d damn kids with me.”

Messerly eventually admitted to investigators to being under the influence of meth at some point during the two-night experience on County Road 54.

Afterward, she had an undisclosed number of toes amputated due to frostbite suffered in the incident, according to the affidavit.

The oil field worker who discovered Messerly’s stuck Volkswagen that morning also reported finding a baby stroller a quarter-mile from the car.

Messerly, consistent with other occasions, according to family members, had left her cell phone at home that day of the trip.

Messerly is scheduled to appear in court April 23 on three separate Moffat County traffic cases. She is also scheduled for a trial in June on felony charges from a separate incident in 2020. However, no further appearances have been scheduled in the case involving the child abuse charges.


Logan Smith