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“Dateline” correspondent Keith Morrison has covered true crime for the NBC newsmagazine since 1995. During that time, certain stories have left such deep impressions on him that they've been hard to shake.
The 2011 disappearance and murder of Micaela “Mickey” Costanzo, a 16-year-old high school junior in West Wendover, Nevada — an area known for slot machines and the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats — is one of them.
For “Dateline: Unforgettable" Season 2, premiering Tuesday, June 7 at 8/7c on Oxygen, Morrison reflects on the Costanzo murder – and its shocking story of, he has said, a “terrible night [when] three families lost their teenage children.”
The case first aired as part of "Dateline" in January 2013 in an episode called “Under the Desert Sky” and as it re-airs, Morrison explains why it strikes such a chord. In advance of the series' return, we break down the Costanzo case.
Know the victim
Micaela Rae “Mickey” Costanzo, a popular 16-year-old student at the local high school in West Wendover, Nevada, was known for taking on leadership roles. In addition to being actively involved in basketball and track, where she was a standout star, Micaela worked on the school newspaper, according to her obituary. She was very close with her mother and sisters.
Vanishing into thin air
On March 3, 2011, Micaela went missing after track practice. She was seen on security camera footage leaving the school around 5:15 p.m. Micaela usually got a ride home from her sister, who was out of town, so she planned to walk to her house instead. When Micaela didn’t show up at home and didn’t answer calls and texts, family members got worried.
A search leads to grim discovery
Police and members of the community joined together to look for the missing teen. On March 5, a volunteer driving along a rural road observed that the ground had “been stirred” in the desert five miles outside of town, reported KLS.com at the time. A body discovered in a shallow grave at the site was confirmed to be Micaela.
A violent death, a cry for justice
Court documents indicated that Mickey had been hit with a shovel and her throat had been cut, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Celia Costanzo, the victim’s grieving mother, said the discovery was just the beginning.
“This is not over yet until the person or persons responsible are brought to justice," she told local media.
A suspect emerges
Detectives launched their investigation into the case by interviewing Micaela’s schoolmates and by reviewing her phone calls and text messages history. These efforts pointed police toward then-18-year-old Kody Cree Patten, a longtime acquaintance who had once dated Micaela. Patten’s current girlfriend was Toni Fratto, 19. Were these two involved in the crime?
To learn more about the case, watch “Dateline: Unforgettable," premiering Tuesday, June 7 at 8/7c on Oxygen.
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