Elko, Nev. • Nightmares interrupt Celia Costanzo's sleep.
The West Wendover woman hasn't worked a full week in nearly a year. She cannot bring herself to go the restaurants where she once met her daughter for lunch. She can seldom cooks at home because she was teaching Mickey to cook when the 16-year-old was killed.
"There's a part of me that's just been ripped away and I'm not whole," Celia Costanzo said Monday, as she asked for the maximum sentence for one of the two teens officials say murdered Micaela "Mickey" Costanza.
"There's not a day, not a moment, not a second that I don't think about her," said her mother.
A few feet away in court, 19-year-old Toni Fratto sat with her attorneys, listening with her head down. Earlier, Fratto's parents watched as the petite 19-year-old dragged her ankle shackles across the hardwood floors in Elko District Court.
It's been just over a year since prosecutors say Fratto and her boyfriend, 19-year-old Kody Cree Patten, took Micaela Costanzo into the desert outside West Wendover and killed her with a camping shovel.
Fratto was not a suspect until she came forward to Patten's attorneys and offered a confession. Earlier this year, Fratto took a plea deal that removed the possibility of a death penalty in exchange for her testimony against Patten.
She said she sat on Costanzo's legs as Patten slashed her throat.
In a tearful hearing Monday, Judge Dan Papez sentenced Fratto to up to life in prison, with parole possible after 18 years.
Elko County District Attorney Mark Torvinen called the slaying as "horrific a murder as I suspect you will ever see," made only worse because Costanzo was as "innocent a victim as you could imagine."
Costanzo was a good student, a basketball player and a track star. She was the editor of her school's newspaper and she dreamed of being an author. She would have been graduating in a few weeks, her mother said.
Papez's description of Costanzo's wounds brought many to tears, including the parents of Kody Patten, whose son is scheduled to stand trial in July.
"She suffered during the attack," the judge said. "It took a long time for her to die. Horrible suffering."
Even after a 3 1/2-hour meeting between Fratto and prosecutors, questions in the case remain unanswered.
"While there are many facts ... explaining what happened, I don't have any information about why this happened," Papez said. "That's the big question that remains."
"Nobody has an answer for that," defense attorney John Springgate said after the hearing.
In court, Springgate offered some explanation for Fratto's role: She was not a "black widow," but rather a "sheep." Psychological testing has shown Fratto has the mental and emotional maturity of a 15-year-old, Springgate said, and she was being controlled by "a boyfriend who was jealous and possessive and isolating."
A month before the slaying, security cameras at West Wendover High School where Costanzo, Fratto and Patten all had attended caught Patten pushing Fratto against a wall, lifting her legs off the ground as he choked her, Springgate said. It was not the first nor last time Patten abused Fratto, he said.
Fratto offered an apology to the Costanzos.
"I know what I did was wrong and therefore I am taking responsibility for my actions," she said through tears. "I'm sorry for what I did and I'm sorry for what I did not do and that is protect [Micaela]."
Fratto has said she came from a family that offered her "unconditional love," and letters to the judge described Fratto as a kind and gentle girl, a good student and a good friend.
That's what makes her involvement all the more puzzling, Papez said.
On the witness stand, Cassie Fratto said her daughter had started to change in the year before the slaying. The Frattos allowed Patten to move into their home for about six weeks before Costanzo's death because they feared their daughter would leave if they did not.
"We thought Kody was really trying to put his life in order," Claude Fratto, the girl's father, said in an email to The Tribune. "He has always had a lot of problems. ... The side of Kody which we knew is completely different from the Kody we know now."
Every Sunday, after church, Fratto's parents visit her in the Elko County jail. They say she has changed again in the last year.
"We have our Toni back," Cassie Fratto said in court.
Cassie Fratto said she hopes her daughter will one day be able to have a productive life. The teen has a dream of helping others, she said. "She wants to help others who have suffered through abuse, or the pain and anguish of having someone take your life away from you."