Brian’s autopsy reveals heroin and kratom intoxication. His friend says he confessed to him of having killed Kristal. Detectives search Brendan Pulver’s home for a kiln.
Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People and more. -> Follow on Facebook
UPDATE 9/23/2022: Catfish John Keenan was found dead in Raleigh, NC.
November 15th, 2021
On the evening of May 16th, 2020, a man named Lantz discovered “Dready” Brian Otten passed out on the roof deck of the Starlit Hostel about 15 minutes outside of Crestone. “He was purple, and he wasn’t breathing,” he told me during an interview. Lantz’s dog was on a leash wrapped around Brian’s wrist. “There were pieces of an orange mixed with vomit and a frothy white foam coming out of his mouth.”
Lantz ran down the winding staircase in a panic and told everyone to call 911. “I think he’s dead,” he said. The hostel owner, Doug, called 911 and passed the phone to Dave Watts, another hostel guest. Dave went upstairs to the roof deck, and the operator asked if he could perform CPR, but he didn’t feel comfortable.
“The ambulance arrived in just 15-20 minutes,” Doug told me during an interview. It was too late, however. When two sheriff’s deputies arrived soon after, the EMS crew told them Brian was deceased. “I was told by the EMS crew that Brian was cold to the touch and they were unable to find signs of life,” Corporal Hansen wrote. “I was told that Doctor Listen from San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center had called time of death at 7:52 p.m.”
Corporal Hansen described the scene in his report: “I saw Brian laying with his head to the east, face up, arms stretched out to each side. Brian was not wearing a shirt, he had on shorts and [flip flops]…There were several pieces of what appeared to be an orange peel laying near Brian and on his beard…Brian had what looked like mucus in his mouth and his mouth was practically open. Brian’s face had red blotches on the skin, that are at this time unknown what may have caused them.”
Three days later, an autopsy was performed. Heroin, oxycodone, kratom (mitragynine), nicotine and marijuana were found in his system. There was no fentanyl, meth, or other drugs present. The coroner told me during an interview that sometimes oxycodone is cut into the heroin itself, but said Brian could have been taking it separately. The doctor wrote in the report that Brian died because of “heroin and mitragynine intoxication.” There was no mention of Brian having choked or asphyxiated.
While kratom (mitragynine) can be fatal by itself, when it is associated with a death, it is usually when other depressant drugs are found. Kratom is a legal opioid that is typically brewed as a tea.
With Brian being a figure of central interest in the disappearance of Kristal Reisinger, his death has led to speculation and frustration.
Brian died because of heroin and kratom intoxication
Just two days before he died, Brian had received his $1,200 stimulus check. Typically cash-strapped, Brian had been mopping floors and washing dishes at the Starlit hostel for trade, as he couldn’t afford rent. He had lived in a bunk bed in a shared room upstairs for the previous two months.
Over the years, Brian bounced around Crestone, even crashing at Catfish John Keenan’s at times. After Kristal Reisinger disappeared, he left Crestone and went on an extended cross-country road trip with friends, returning in late 2019. On January 6th 2020, he was arrested in Salida for misdemeanor harassment against someone.
Two days before he died, Brian went with Lantz to Salida to cash the stimulus check at H&R Block. “He owed me money, he owed Doug money,” Lantz said. “I told him he didn’t want to have to wait several more weeks to cash his check and convinced him to cash it.”
Brian and Lantz then went to their friend Josh’s house in Salida, where Brian got extremely drunk. “I mean bottles and beers and constantly putting it back,” Lantz said. “He normally drank one or two 40s a day, but he came out of the store with a six-pack, rum and several 40s all for himself.” That night Brian got belligerent. “He started going into a fit and kicked my windshield in.” Lantz said there was a giant crack from one side to the other. Josh came out and punched Brian in the arm to make him stop. Brian slept in a sleeping bag in the car while Josh and Lantz stayed in Josh’s RV.
Several people told me Brian was an alcoholic and had a long history of using meth and heroin. In 2017, Brian’s friend called 911 and told the sheriff’s office he had been drinking, smoking and doing opioids. “He stated that Mr. Otten stopped breathing and started to turn blue,” the sheriff’s report reads. Brian apparently overdosed but had survived. Lantz said Brian had been drinking more heavily in the days prior to his death.
Dready Brian was also known for being volatile, particularly while under the influence. “He was banned from the Cloud, the brewery, the liquor store and other places in town,” his friend told me. A police report from 2016 shows he refused to leave the Elephant Cloud market, became aggressive and threatened to fight the owner. Doug recalled having to kick him out of the Starlit hostel for being belligerent and rude to guests one evening during an event.
One of his close friends who used the alias “Calvin,” told the Up and Vanished podcast Brian had a dark side to him. “From what I’ve seen, and I know his ex-wife and I know all the other girlfriends he’s been with, there’s a violence behind him, like a dark, it doesn’t come out right at first, but when they’re alone it happens.”
In Salida the next morning, Lantz and Brian woke up early and headed back to Crestone. It was May, 15th. “I took him back to the house, and he was puking all over,” Lantz said. Brian told Lantz he needed something to help him “feel better” from his terrible hangover.
Brian had lost his phone on a hike, so he used an old phone of Lantz’s to message a friend for some heroin. The phone didn’t have cell service, only Wi-Fi connection.
The next morning, May 16th, the entire crew, Lantz, Dave, Doug, and Haven, went to the Food Bank in town. “Brian usually went into town with us,” Lantz said. “But he wanted to stay home and recover.”
From around 9 a.m. until early afternoon, when most of the crew returned, Brian was alone in the hostel. James Talon and his mother Neola were staying in an RV on the property right next to the hostel.
“We didn’t know Brian was still there when we got back,” Dave told me. A few neighbors had come by to hang out at the hostel that afternoon. A man named Maitreya who was hanging out that afternoon told me he asked the group if Brian was there. He thought it was odd that no one knew. Dave and Doug’s rooms were downstairs, and no one went upstairs until Lantz returned around 6 p.m. as he was staying in the same room as Brian.
“I saw Brian laying on the deck and I was like ‘oh, there’s Brian,'” Lantz said. “But then I was like ‘oh shit, wait a minute’ and realized something was up.”
Lantz opened the door and saw his dog leashed to Brian’s wrist. He had agreed to watch him while Lantz was at work during the day. The dog was uncomfortable, so he unleashed him. Lantz then noticed Brian was purple, not breathing, and had foam and orange pieces coming out of his mouth.
“David explained that they all saw Lantz run downstairs ‘freaking out,’ then they called 911,” the police report reads. When the EMS crew arrived just 15-20 minutes later, they reported Brian was “cold to the touch.”
Corporal Hansen’s report described the scene. “At approximately 9 p.m., Coroner T. Perrin arrived on scene…I assisted Coroner Perrin with placing Brian in the body bag. One of the EMT’s and myself brought Brian down from the landing to the stretcher. We had to carry Brian down without the aid of a stretcher as it would not fit around the tight areas on the second level. Brian was secured in Coroner Perrin’s vehicle.”
After the two sheriff’s deputies and EMS crew left, Lantz and Dave found Brian’s heroin spoon and needle in the bathroom upstairs. Somehow, the deputies had missed them.
Lantz and Dave found Brian’s heroin spoon and needle in the bathroom upstairs. Somehow, the deputies had missed them.
And then Lantz realized Brian was still logged into Facebook messenger on the old phone of his. Looking through his Facebook messages, he saw Brian had messaged a guy to order heroin. Lantz contacted the sheriff’s deputies and told them he had the heroin spoon and messages from the dealer that sold Brian the heroin. “They weren’t interested,” Lantz told me. “They told us to throw away the heroin spoon. I told them what happened, that there was a message from the guy he bought the drugs from.” The sheriff’s office never followed up.
Lantz and Dave were shocked. There was no autopsy yet. His death could have been foul play. The heroin could have been laced. They had expected every angle to be investigated and explored.
I ended up finding the person who claims to have sold Brian the heroin.
I INTERVIEWED “RYAN” IN AUGUST. He said he was one of Dready Brian’s best friends and a long-time Crestone native, which others have confirmed. I shared what I had learned about his death from my investigation and the autopsy report. When I mentioned Lantz said Brian used an old phone of his to buy drugs, Ryan interjected.
“A half a gram of heroin,” Ryan said.
I paused and stared at him. “It was a half a gram?” I asked. “You know? How much heroin is that? How much does that even cost?”
“I sold it to him for $60,” he said.
“You sold it to him?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I don’t know how to do this without getting in trouble,” he said slowly as he looked down.
“Lantz told me from having read the Facebook message at the time, it seemed to come from outside of Crestone,” I said.
“Moffat,” Ryan said. “I had a girl deliver it to him.”
“Was it laced?” I asked.
Some had speculated that Brian was being silenced by the inner circle because of his alleged involvement in Kristal’s disappearance. Two others in the friends circle have died. The autopsy report showed Marty Shellabarger died of a heroin and meth overdose on September 21st 2020, just five months after Brian. And John Bedard aka “Red” who was interviewed in the podcast, also died of a meth and cocaine overdose on July 31st 2020, according to his autopsy report.
“No, it wasn’t laced, it was just really good,” Ryan said.
“Did you use from the same batch you sold to Brian?” I asked.
“Fuck yeah,” he said.
In a later interview, Ryan said it was from his personal stash, and he just wanted to help Brian out. He said he had the girl deliver it to Brian late at night.
A friend of Ryan’s told me he had said something concerning. “I took care of it,” he told them, in reference to the person who killed Kristal. Interestingly, there was Oxycodone was found in Brian’s system along with the heroin. “The gray death is the name given to batches of heroin that have been mixed with other, stronger opioids,” experts write. One ingredient that can be used to create a “hot shot” is Oxycodone.
The other bombshell that Ryan dropped was that Brian had admitted to killing Kristal. “He confessed to me right before he died.” He said Brian was crying when they spoke over the phone. “I didn’t mean to,” Brian told him. “We were yelling, and she was trying to get money and I pushed her.” Kristal then allegedly fell over the balcony.
Kristal had won a financial judgment against Brian just a few weeks before for when he totaled her car. Perhaps this was related to what they were discussing.
“He confessed to me right before he died.”
Brendan Pulver had said the same thing to his friend “Anna,” whom I interviewed. She told me Brendan had told her he was at Catfish’s when Brian was in an argument with Kristal and he pushed her off the loft balcony.
Brian also told one of my sources, “I got drunk in an argument and she fell off the balcony in the house and broke a bunch of bones.” And this source said Brian told him “they weren’t gonna take her to the hospital.”
It’s common for someone to “confess” to a less worse version of events. Brian could have been truthful or he could have bent the truth to seem not as bad. And it seems like Brian could have seriously injured Kristal and not technically killed her.
According to Ryan and other members of the inner circle I’ve interviewed, the group of people at Catfish’s panicked and some of them killed her. A few sources say they may have used a high powered Airsoft BB gun which Catfish owned several of. I interviewed the mother of a man named “Jack” in the podcast who was part of the inner circle. Others have confirmed Jack was doing meth and drugs at Catfish’s. His mother told me Jack had told her he was at Catfish’s that night and saw Kristal twitching on the floor.
Jack had told her he was at Catfish’s that night and saw Kristal twitching on the floor.
And Brendan Pulver told the podcast, “Jack, I believe was there at the time of whatever went down. He got dosed with a live drug and he went off…”
“Did Brian ever talk about Kristal?” I asked Lantz. “Those motherfuckers killed her,” Brian would say to him when drunk, Lantz told me. “You guys don’t fucking know what happened,” Brian would say in a rage.
While at a party talking about Kristal, Brian said to a few friends, “She was better off dead,” in a serious tone. His friend who heard him say this told me she was shocked and became suspicious of him.
Close friend of the inner crew, “Calvin,” said in the podcast he heard Catfish clearly say on two or three occasions, “I didn’t think they’d kill her.” Calvin also said, “I believe that she was killed. I do believe her and Brian got into an argument, Brian killed her, and then they disposed of the body… Once I started talking to Catfish, I got to basically know Catfish, it wasn’t him at all. I hate to say this, but he may have helped him cover it up.”
A close inner source of Catfish told me that Dready Brian pushed Kristal off the balcony and she broke her neck. Catfish then paid Brian and one other person to get rid of her body, he told me. This source spent a considerable amount of time with the group.
Brian said to a few friends, “She was better off dead.”
In May 2019, deputy Wayne Clark showed up at Brendan Pulver’s home with a search warrant for a kiln. “Several different beings called the Sheriff’s office to report that I had burned Kristal’s body in a kiln,” Brendan told me. Sheriff Dan Warwick told me during an interview that someone had given a sworn statement in writing that Brendan burned Kristal’s body in a kiln. Brendan’s mother, Ruth, was home at the time of the search. She told me they found nothing. “The kiln we eventually found ended up being half the size of what we thought,” Dan said. Brendan’s brother’s wife had a kiln, and they tested it for human remains, but it came back negative.
“Calvin” also said in the podcast that he heard Brendan Pulver say something disturbing. “Brendan was staying at my house one night, and he woke up, and he was like, ‘I didn’t mean to do it, I didn’t mean to do it to her.'”
“Brendan knows full well what happened that night,” a Crestone local named “Ken” told me. He recalled an instance where Brendan was chasing “Calvin” around a vehicle while yelling at him, “you’ve been talking to the cops and the FBI.” And Calvin said something like, “Fuck yeah I have, I told them everything.” What did Brendan have to hide? “Brendan was worried about it like he had a reason to be worried about it,” Ken told me. Why would Brendan care if Calvin talked to the cops if he had nothing to do with it?
“Brendan knows full well what happened that night.”
In the podcast, “Catfish” John Keenan had claimed Brian confessed to killing Kristal Reisinger to him over Facebook messenger. However, “Mark,” a longtime resident and close friend of Kristal’s, told me he and some friends were with Kristal one afternoon when she received suspiciously sent messages from Brian. They were all watching Brian playing guitar as he walked down the street, but simultaneously Kristal was getting messages from Brian on Facebook. They knew it wasn’t Brian sending them and suspected it was Catfish as Brian had been staying at his house.
Sheriff Dan confirmed that some polygraphs were given by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation including to Dready Brian. A source who claimed to be knowledgeable of the outcome told me he failed the lie detector test.
Two days before Dready Brian died, his friend “Anna” injected meth with him. Brian also got drunk. They went to their friend Nate Maxwell’s house to buy the meth and returned to her apartment in town to shoot up. “He was talking about Kristal a lot,” she told me during an interview. “He was sharing good memories of her, but there was a lot of guilt. It was sounding like he wanted to share something and confess,” she said. Brian became so drunk that Anna dropped him back at Nate’s. A source described Nate as the “major drug dealer for Crestone” at that time who was “moving a lot of meth.”
Last year, while in Crestone, I mysteriously met one of Nate’s ex-girlfriends. “Nate told me that Catfish kept Kristal in his basement,” she said.
READ PART II: INSIDE CATFISH’S HOUSE