Dateline   |  August 16, 2013

Under the Desert Sky, Part 9

Kody passes on a plea deal. But Toni does agree to plead guilty and will testify against Kody.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> dead for nine months.

>> christmas day , it was not fun for me.

>> she was missing. it's not the same. and i don't ever think that's going to go away. i used to enjoy going and buying everybody christmas presents and wrapping them up and it wasn't the same. and then having to remember not to buy her something.

>> kody patten and his fiancee toni fratto spent the holidays in jail awaiting trial. on new year's eve, kody turned 20. early in 2012 a legal deal emerged. kody would plead guilty to first-degree murder, get life and prison, but with the possibility of parole, no death penalty and in exchange he'd have to testify against toni . kody took the deal and just as suddenly changed his mind. instead, kody decided to take his chances in court, but just one day later, the d.a. offered toni a deal, not the same deal. better. if toni agreed to testify against kody she'd be allowed to plead to second-degree murder with the chance of parole after just 18 years. by then toni would be just 36, and toni offered a chance to save her own skin by throwing kody under the bus said yes. she signed the plea papers right away.

>> she said, you know what? enough is enough. the truth needs to be told, and i'm going to tell it. so on a chilly, january day, toni fratto was led from her jail cell to an office of the sheriff's department to tell her story and put her hand on the bible and promised to tell the truth.

>> i'm a person to tell the truth. and deep down, i wanted people to know the truth because i knew -- i knew kody wasn't going to come forward to tell the complete truth.

>> for the next three and a half hours toni told a whole new story about how kody was upset with mickey . how he hated the sound of her voice. how things were building up and then the tale of the story that did not change. the afternoon of march 3rd , that text from kody , one of over a hundred the two exchanged that day. police weren't able to recover any of them, but this one, said toni , was burned in her memory.

>> what was the content of it?

>> all it said was i have her.

>> from here, the story changed and blame shifted toward kody . as they drove off into the desert, said toni , she looked back and saw mickey stuffed in the back section of the suv and mickey looked scared, said toni , with her hands up to her face. code i looked determined and angry, she said and wouldn't talk to her. as they approached the gravel pits, said toni , kody right beside her in the driver's seat sent her a text and it said we have to kill her. just kind of looked at him and kind of lipped, well, why? kody pulled over , said toni and ordered her to stand guard as he dug a hole and he took mickey from the car and pushed her from the ground and demanded that toni hit her.

>> all i remember is him pulling her hair back and i went up and had hit her in the face.

>> in this new and entirely different version of her story, toni claimed she was an unwilling participant and insisted she backed off while kody started punching and kicking mickey and then he issued an order.

>> i remember looking up at kody and him telling me, hit her with the shovel. hit her with the shovel, and so i hit her in the back of the shoulder with a shovel.

>> she said kody took the shovel back and whacked mickey on the head and then in the hole he dug, kody got on top of her, and i remember going up and holding her legs down so that she'd stop kicking and then all of a sudden her legs went completely still and she wasn't moving. and that freaked me out, so i backed off and jumped up and walked off a little bit. remember, in her first confession, toni claimed she'd help cut mickey 's throat. not anymore. her new story, kody used the knife alone while she, horrified, then backed off, but kept watching and listening.

>> she had looked up at kody and asked am i still here? am i still alive? and then kody ordered her to get in the car, she said, and sitting by herself, toni said she heard the last sounds of mickey costanzo's life and then she said it was over. kody buried mickey by herself. once in the car, according to toni , they drove back into town and went to mcdonald's for a cold drink and then later they cruised across the state line into utah, pulled off into the desert and burned mickey 's clothes and belongings.

>> you can't tell me to this day why this happened?

>> no.

>> he never told you that?

>> no.

>> and with that, toni had her deal. this one statement she provided would now comprise much of the d.a.'s case against her fiance, kody patten. in this new version of her story, kody was the killer and orchestrated the whole thing and she, terrified of kody 's murderous rage was forced to go along for the awful ride. not at all like her original confession, but was there more to toni 's story? well, maybe, because just before she was arrested toni left something behind. something in her very own words that just might reveal the real motive for mickey costanzo's murder.