(August 12th, 2012) “Your blood runs cold, Mr. Patten. There shall be no possibility of parole.”
Those words from Elko District Judge Daniel Papez Friday prompted cheers from the family of murdered West Wendover High School student Micaela “Mickey” Costanzo.
The final chapter in the 2011 brutal killing of 16-year-old Micaela was written Friday in an Elko courtroom when 19-year-old Kody Cree Patten was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Papez said he considered Patten’s young age when handing down his sentence. But what outweighed that concern was the crime itself. Papez called it “the worst kind of murder.”
"Micaelea’s murder was carried out with gruesome, vicious, merciless violence," Papez said, while also noting that it was premeditated.
Patten, clean-shaven and wearing a suit, stood with his hands behind his back and showed little to no emotion as the sentence was issued.
Earlier in the hearing, Micaela’s father pointed at Patten from the witness stand and angrily demanded answers.
"You had no right, kid. You had no right to do that. I got a question for you though: Why don’t you tell me why. Why’d you harm her?" Theodore Anthony Costanzo Jr. asked.
The prosecutor had to quiet Costanzo, telling him to stick to answering questions.
When asked what sentence he believed should be imposed, the father replied: “I want him to walk into that penitentiary, and when he leaves it, he’ll be in a box.”
When it was Patten’s turn to address the court, he took several long pauses, appearing to collect his thoughts — sometimes reaching for a tissue — and told the court he continues to go over in his head what happened that day.
But he couldn’t answer why he killed the girl.
"I’ve sat and tried to go over it and over it. There’s no reason, there’s no why, no justification for it. Sorry’s not enough. I apologize for everything. I’m sorry," he said.
"I can’t describe what happened, can’t even begin to describe it," he said. "Sorry isn’t enough. … I wish I could ask for forgiveness but I don’t feel I deserve it."
During his rambling speech, Patten said Micaela “was always good to me” and “anything a friend could ask for.”
"The more I stand here, the more I see how horrible this is," he said. "Her family didn’t deserve it. Mickey didn’t deserve it."
Patten then recited part of a poem that Micaela had written, talking about a glimmer of beauty beneath “all the ugly” in the world.
"Micaela was the glimmer of beauty for people," Patten said, which caused her mother, Cecilia Costanzo, to cry even harder.
In May, Patten accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for being spared the death penalty.
The deal came after co-defendant Toni Fratto — Patten’s former girlfriend — struck her own plea deal in April and also avoided a possible death penalty, pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. Fratto, 19, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She will serve a minimum 18 years in prison before being eligible to be released.
Though both defendants have pleaded guilty, each side still has very differing accounts of what actually happened, each maintaining that the other party was more culpable.
Patten is accused of kidnapping Micaela after school on March 3, 2011. He and Fratto then drove Micaela to a remote area in the desert near the Utah-Nevada border and killed her. Patten allegedly shoved Micaela to the ground, causing her to hit her head on a rock and go into a seizure, followed by Fratto hitting her on the head with a shovel. Fratto’s attorneys say their client then sat on Micaela’s legs while Patten slashed her throat. Patten, however, has denied being the one who cut Micaela’s throat, maintaining it was Fratto.
Patten wrote a letter to the judge as part of the pre-sentence report. In it, Patten wrote he did not intend for Fratto to cut Micaela’s throat.
"The evidence does not support your statement," Papez said, accusing Patten of trying to minimize his role in the crime. "I don’t believe you. You were the primary perpetrator of the murder.
"Micaela’s sweet voice will never be heard again," the judge continued. "Her sweet smile will never be seen again because of you, Mr. Patten. Your acts of planning this murder, carrying out this murder in such a vicious manner and then attempting to cover up this murder, are hardly the acts of an impulsive, irrational teenage mind. You always had the ability to stop the wheels of this murder you put into motion, Mr. Patten."
After killing her, Patten and Fratto buried Micaela in a shallow grave and took some of her possessions to the Utah side of Wendover to burn. Papez said the couple then “callously” washed up and went to Wendover to get a drink.
Micaela’s mother and sisters said time has only made things worse since Mickey’s death. They said they continue to have nightmares.
"This man should never see the light of day or be given the chance to see the light of day ever again," said Cecilia Costanzo. "He took my daughter’s life. He didn’t give her a chance to finish high school or to get married or to have children or to go to college. He had no right to take her. So he has no right to have a life or have anything. … He should never be free to do anything ever again."
"I can’t find joy anymore. I think it’s so sad. It makes me wonder when anything will be OK anymore," said Micaela’s sister, DJ.
Members of Patten’s family, including his mother and father, also spoke to the court. Each described Patten as a caring person whom they could never imagine was capable of such a horrific act.
"It’s very unlike him. Micaela was our friend, we loved her. She was Kody’s best friend," said Donna Patten, Kody’s mother.
Patten’s family reminded the court that Kody had EMT training and had already been accepted to join the U.S. Marines and was even given a deployment date before the murder.
His attorney, John Ohlson, implored the judge to uphold the principle of “hope, redemption and compassion” and give Patten both a chance to prove and improve himself while in prison.
Outside the courtroom, all parties left without comment. Cecila Costanzo briefly said she was happy that “justice had been served” before walking arm in arm with her family to their cars in the parking lot to drive back to Wendover.
Kody Cree Patten
Ely State Prison
P.O. Box 1989
4569 North State Rt.
Ely, Nevada 89301