Court testimony: Couple who planned to marry killed Wendover teen together

Trial ordered based largely on 2 confessions

Published: Thursday, July 14 2011 1:00 p.m. MDT

Toni Fratto looks at Elko District Attorney Mark Torvinen during a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Ross Andreson, Ross Andreson, Associated Press

ELKO, Nev. — A judge Thursday ordered a woman accused of helping her boyfriend kidnap and kill a 16-year-old West Wendover High School student to stand trial on what he called "slight or marginal evidence."

Toni Fratto, 19, was ordered to stand trial on new, additional charges filed Wednesday in the death of Micaela "Mickey" Costanzo. Fratto now faces charges of felony kidnapping or acting as a principal to kidnapping; conspiracy to commit felony murder; felony murder or acting as a principal to murder; and willfully destroying evidence or willful destruction of evidence, a misdemeanor.

Fratto and her boyfriend, 18-year-old Kody Lee Patten, are accused of kidnapping Micaela, killing her and burying her body in a shallow grave in the desert outside of West Wendover.

Prosecutors admitted there were conflicts with the timeline of events laid out by witnesses, but Elko District Attorney Mark Torvenin argued it should be left to a jury to decide.

"We have met that burden (of proving enough evidence for a trial) and are entitled to our day in court," he argued. "The fact of the matter is she confessed twice to murder."

But defense attorney John Springgate argued that those two confessions came from non-credible sources. In addition, there is not one piece of forensic evidence or eyewitness that links Fratto with the crime, he said, and that includes a lack of fingerprints, footprints or blood evidence.

"There's nothing," he said.

Springgate took issue with the testimony of Kip Patten, Kody's father, who said Fratto told him all about the killing. The defense attorney also took issue with the taped confession Fratto conducted with Kody Patten's attorneys, calling both "wholly rubbish."

Kody Patten was arrested in the death days later. On April 22, Fratto sat down with Kody Patten's attorneys to confess she had helped her boyfriend in Micaela's death. That recorded confession was later turned over to police who subsequently arrested Fratto more than a month after Patten's arrest. Until that point, Fratto had never been mentioned as a possible accomplice.

Springgate argued the tape was a violation of attorney-client privileges and the attorneys who interviewed Fratto were not honest with her. "I'm suggesting they know better and they lied to her, and there's no other way to put it," he told the judge.

The tape, a very poor audio recording, was played in court Thursday. For many of Fratto's and Micaela's family members, it was the first time they had heard it.

At the beginning of the recording, Fratto sounds unsure about the procedures, asking the attorneys if they will be able to represent her or if she needs to get her own attorney.

According to Fratto's version of events, Micaela had been texting Kody Patten wanting to get back together with him. That contradicted testimony given Wednesday by Micaela's best friend who said Micaela rarely spoke to the former boyfriend and wanted nothing to do with him.

Patten said he picked Micaela up so they could talk, according to Fratto. He then picked Fratto up and the three drove to an area outside of town because Micaela "didn't want anyone to see us or anything," she testified.

During the drive, Fratto said in her recorded confession that Micaela was getting agitated with her and Patten. "We didn't want to cause any problems or have any problems. We wanted to work everything out," Fratto said.

Finally, they stopped the car and Micaela and Patten got out and talked. The talking turned into yelling and shoving on both sides, she said.

"I looked away, and then heard a loud thud on the car," Fratto said. She got out of the car and saw Micaela lying on the ground.

"Everything from there on out was kind of a blur to me," she said. "It went downhill from there."

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