I’m having a terrible time coming up with a fresh topic today. I’m in the middle of reading a new book about the Kennedy family, and I just don’t have the stomach to cover what I’ve been reading about regarding politics. Every time I read a new headline about the Republican party, I feel more outraged. But I’ve already written so much about the current “hot button” issues, and I just don’t feel up to it today.
So, instead of writing something fresh, I’m going to repost this true crime piece I wrote October 19, 2018. It got a lot of hits on the original blog, so I know people were, at one time, interested in the case of Toni Fratto and Kody Cree Patten. I also remember that my take was a bit controversial with those in the know, so I will add the original comments.
If you choose to comment on this piece, please be civil, and please remember, most of it was written about five years ago. If it seems “wrong” or out of date, it may be because of that.
I was inspired by my recent reintroduction to Netflix yesterday and wound up spending a few hours binge watching a show called Deadly Women. I had seen it before, although the cases presented in the shows I watched yesterday were new to me. It always kind of amuses me that the narrators they use on shows about salacious crimes involving murder always sound like they’re oversexed or something. They also have “experts” who comment. One woman who is consistently featured on the shows has striking blue eyes and dark hair. She is a former FBI profiler. But she always sounds like she’s scandalized by some of the stories she analyzes.
So anyway, one of the episodes I watched involved a young Mormon woman from Nevada named Toni Fratto. Fratto’s religion wasn’t mentioned in the episode, but apparently, she was a very devout believer and Patten eventually converted to Mormonism so they could eventually marry in the temple. Patten even moved into Fratto’s family’s house after a particularly nasty fight with his father. Fratto’s family evidently felt they could help straighten out Patten and keep an eye on their daughter, who had informed them that she intended to marry Patten.
I found out about Fratto’s faith when I got curious and looked her up online. The British tabloid Daily Mail ran a story about Fratto’s sensational crime. In April 2012, Fratto and her boyfriend, Kody Cree Patten, were sentenced to prison for murdering Patten’s friend, 16 year old Micaela “Mickey” Costanzo. Fratto and Patten brutally murdered Costanzo on March 3, 2011.
As I was watching this show about Fratto and Patten, I was reminded of a somewhat similar situation that occurred in the 1990s. In 1995, David Graham and Diane Zamora were a Texas high school power couple with plans to attend military service academies and embark on high powered military careers. But then the two of them decided to commit murder one night. They killed 16 year old Adrianne Jones because Diane was extremely jealous of the pretty teen. She thought Adrianne was a romantic rival, particularly since David had told Diane that he’d had sex with Adrianne. When Diane found out that her boyfriend had cheated, she became enraged and felt compelled to kill Adrianne. She asked David to carry out the task and sadly, he obliged.
Fratto’s case was somewhat similar, except she and Patten weren’t necessarily a “power couple” in the making. Patten was apparently a troublemaker, while Fratto had apparently led a fairly quiet life. On the show, she was described and portrayed as “homely”. Patten had grown up with Costanzo; she was one of his “buddies”. According to Deadly Women, Fratto had become irrationally jealous of Mickey Costanzo.
Although Patten’s and Costanzo’s relationship had been platonic, Fratto was extremely insecure about the attention Patten paid to his friend, who was pretty, athletic, and described as “promising”. Mickey Costanzo also had a boyfriend, though Fratto was convinced that she was going to ruin her relationship with Patten. Despite Costanzo’s promises that she wasn’t interested in Patten romantically, Fratto refused to believe her, and continued to insult and threaten the girl. Fratto had repeatedly confronted Costanzo, telling her to “stay away” from her man, Kody Patten. Costanzo then decided she wanted nothing more to do with Patten, which apparently enraged him.
And yet, even though she was repeatedly harassing Costanzo about her friendship with Patten, Fratto had never been in trouble with the law. She had no criminal record when she and Patten kidnapped Costanzo, took her to the desert, beat her over the head with a shovel, and buried her in a shallow grave.
While Diane Zamora appears to have masterminded Adrianne Jones’ murder and David Graham had simply gone along with the idea, I think in this case, it was more Patten who got the idea to kill than Fratto. It appears that Patten got a charge out of playing on Fratto’s insecurities. He would deliberately set up situations that he knew would upset Fratto and cause her to react. Patten had a history of being a troublemaker, while Fratto was more of a “sheep”– this was actually how her attorney described her. Given what I know about Mormonism, I can see where that tendency would originate.
I even remember in 2014, watching BYU TV and hearing a Relief Society president giving a talk during that year’s spring General Conference. She was telling a disturbing anecdote about a farmer who had to train one of his ewes not to stray. The ewe would wander off from the herd by herself. So he tied the ewe to a stake until she learned not to stray. Then, once he freed her from the stake, the farmer had to coax her to move around again. The ewe had become submissive and compliant, and the Relief Society president’s message was that church members needed to be taught the same lesson.
With messages like that coming from a place of authority, I can see why Fratto might have been talked into helping her boyfriend commit murder. That’s not to say that I think all Mormons are “sheep”. It’s more to say that the religion does train people to be followers. I think in some cases, women are especially conditioned to follow the direction of their men, and that tendency can be exacerbated by untreated mental illness. Fratto apparently didn’t have a lot of experience with men and, for whatever reason, really thought she loved Patten. Later, she said that Patten had abused and controlled her throughout their relationship and she feared that if she didn’t help Patten kill Costanzo, she would be murdered herself. So instead of doing the right thing, she sat on Costanzo’s legs and helped hold her down while Patten slit the teen’s throat.
There could be some truth to Fratto’s story, although I also believe that Fratto was at least as dysfunctional and abusive as Patten. The fact that she could be talked into committing such an act of violence is a clue to her weakness of character. Would she have committed the murder on her own? I don’t know. But she was clearly lacking the moral fortitude to resist her own dark impulses.
To Fratto’s slim credit, she did eventually come forward to confess what she’d done. It was small comfort to Costanzo’s mother, who pleaded with the court to hand down a maximum sentence. Frankly, I can’t blame Mickey Costanzo’s mother for being so incredibly angry about the senseless and tragic murder of her child.
Fratto was eventually convicted of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon. She was sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole after 18 years. Since she was 19 when she was convicted, it’s possible that Fratto could be out of prison before she turns 40. As of August 2018, Toni Fratto was in Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Patten pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole. He is at Ely State Prison in White Pine County, Nevada.
Edited to add in 2023: On April 4, 2021, Toni Fratto was denied parole. Her next chance to be paroled will be in May 2024. However, even if she had gotten parole in 2021, Fratto would still be locked up, as she has a second sentence that would begin for using a deadly weapon in the commission of second degree murder.
Listening to Toni Fratto on Anderson Cooper in the above clips, Toni Fratto sounds more to me like a psychopath. At the very least, she’s out of touch with reality, and the sheer horror of what she did. Listening to these interviews in 2023, I now believe that Toni Fratto was just as diabolical as Patten was. She is definitely where she belongs. How absolutely terrible it is that a beautiful and innocent young woman would lose her life due to these two criminals.
And here are the original comments:
- AlexisAROctober 20, 2018 at 10:40 PM That Relief Society talk you described is beyond scary. A person would have to be virtually brain-dead even to read that talk from a teleprompter. Whoever wrote it is likely certifiable and should be locked up.
- knottyOctober 20, 2018 at 10:57 PM I was horrified when I heard it.
- Pcofwork January 21, 2019 at 5:32 AM I actually don’t agree with you. Toni and Kody had a history of aggressive behavior with Mickey. Toni initially confessed to being the one who slit her throat, I believe that the version she told to Kodys lawyer is close to the truth as we are ever going to get. Kody has shown remorse since he confessed to the police, all Toni has ever done is blame him. She didn’t even apologize to Mickey’s family. And she had more of a motive than he did.
- knottyJanuary 22, 2019 at 5:03 PM Alright.
- Chris Middleton February 6, 2019 at 3:01 AM Just a couple selfish, cold blooded pieces of shit! They took someone’s daughter! Hope they both rot in jail and then go straight to hell. I see she is eligible for parole in 2021, if she gets out, may people in their town take revenge on her cold