West Wendover, Nevada – 2011 – 18-year-old Mormon Toni Fratto seems to be a quiet, reserved teenager who minds her own business. She was highly intelligent and diligent in her work. Alas, that wasn’t to last. She met 18-year-old Kody Patten, who is smitten by the plain, shy girl and the feeling was mutual. Patten became her whole world. He was her first and only love. It wasn’t long before the two became engaged. Fratto’s parents had their reservations: Fratto was very young and Patten was her first boyfriend. Patten also revealed himself to be a “bad boy” and Fratto was too inexperienced to realize this wasn’t a desirable trait in a husband. Naturally Fratto’s parents were concerned.
Patten also had anger management problems. He had a hair-trigger temper and used it on Fratto. It was no wonder that Fratto tolerated his behavior: she had no self-worth to mention. At one point during the school year, security cameras at West Wendover High School revealed footage of Patten choking Fratto. However, Fratto had the mental and emotional maturity of a 15-year-old. She didn’t know she was being abused. She didn’t tell anyone.
Fratto’s parents knew nothing about this and they decided to accept the teens’ engagement. They opened their homes and their lives to Patten. They allowed Patten to move in with them, figuring it was a good influence on their future son-in-law. They discussed the Mormon religion with him and tried to welcome him into the fold. They had another agenda. Mrs. Fratto worried that Toni would elope with Patten if she didn’t keep a close eye on the two lovebirds.
There was one fly in the ointment that irked Fratto. Patten still associated with 16-year-old Micaela (Micky) Costanzo, a childhood friend. Patten had no interest in Micky, although they had once dated. It hadn’t felt right between the two of them. They were buddies, nothing more, but Fratto didn’t believe him. She warned Patten to cool it with Costanzo and distance himself from his pretty-looking platonic friend. It wasn’t that difficult to understand: Costanzo was much more attractive than Fratto, she was outgoing and very popular. Costanzo tried to reassure Fratto that she had no interest in Patten. In fact, Costanza had a boyfriend of her own. Fratto was having none of it. She refused to believe both Patten and Costanzo’s protests about a mutual, romantic interest. Some people suggested Costanzo had expressed an interest in reuniting with Patten. Who knows?
Lest we think Fratto was the only pathological partner in the relationship, Patten was equally “jealous and possessive and isolating.” Oddly, Patten approached Costanzo one day and cut her arm with a box-cutter. Wisely, Costanzo put a wide distance between herself and Patten. This enraged Patten. Perhaps there was something to Fratto’s fears after all.
Over time, Fratto’s diaries became disturbing. In a frenzy, she wrote at length about her jealousies and suspicions towards Costanzo. Fratto was certain that Patten would leave her for Costanzo. She wrote pages about her hatred for Costanzo and her suspicions about her betrothed. She didn’t, however, write about a desire to kill Costanzo. This may have been her one saving grace when receiving her sentencing during her murder trial.
One afternoon after school, Patten waited for Costanzo after she finished her track meet. He lured Costanzo to his SUV, bound her wrists then pushed her into the back seat, ignoring the girl’s pleas to set her free. Fratto joined him in the passenger seat and they set off for a deserted area called “the gravel pits.” This was no impromptu act – it was a plan that had long been In the making. You know what’s coming next, don’t you? They pulled Costanzo out of the car. Fratto sat on Costanzo’s legs while Costanzo’s childhood friend slit her throat. It was a very personal manner of death. Fratto and Patten stared into her eyes. Fratto hit her on the back of her head with a shovel. Ouch. They could have killed Costanzo quickly and painlessly but Fratto wanted to see her rival suffer. After a quick burial in a shallow grave, the two left, quite proud of their grisly accomplishment.
Costanzo’s parents reported their daughter as missing since March 3. Police asked around and discovered the jealousy Fratto held toward Costanzo. It was on March 5, 2011, that Costanzo’s body was found in a shallow grave near the Utah border. It wasn’t long before they arrested Patten. After learning about the incident, Fratto’s father pulled her out of bed at night and, while still in her pajamas, forced her to go to the police station and turn herself in. Lucky for Fratto, coming forward about her part in Costanzo’s murder led to a plea deal that prevented her from receiving the death sentence. Fratto claimed she didn’t know why she murdered her peer. She insisted it was Patten’s idea. Ultimately, both Fratto and Patten were indicted for Costanzo’s first degree murder.
In court, Fratto’s defense attorney questioned the Fratto’s decision to allow Patten to live with them. “Knowing what you know about that [school] attack on [Fratto], why would you open your home to [Patten]?” “Toni was very much in love with Kody,” was the only reply Cassie Fratto could provide. Frankly, I think attacking Fratto’s parents for an errant decision made no sense. It only served to humiliate the Fratto’s even further. After the murder trial, the jury found both Patten and Fratto guilty of first degree murder. The judge stated, “[Micaela] suffered during the attack. It took a long time for her to die. Horrible suffering.”
Weeping, Fratto said in court before her sentencing: ‘I would like to apologise for my actions and the tragedy that has happened. I know what I did was wrong. I’m sorry for what I did to Micaela and for what I did not do, protect her. It does not change what happened. But I do mean I’m sorry.’ It certainly didn’t. Fratto received life in prison with the possibility of parole in 10 years. Seriously.
The Fratto’s refused to give up on their murderous daughter. After her incarceration, every Sunday after church, Fratto’s parents visited her in the Elko County jail. They said since getting away from Patten she had changed and was a better person. I’m so sure. Cassie stated she hoped her daughter will eventually have a productive life. “She has a dream of helping others. She wants to help others who have suffered through abuse, or the pain and anguish of having someone take your life away from you. We have our Toni back.”
Too bad the Constanzo’s can’t say the same thing.