Archive | July, 2011

Stolen Cross, Broken Hearts

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

As Celia Costanzo sat in Toni Fratto’s preliminary hearing two weeks ago forced to listen to the horrific details of her daughter’ Mickey’s kidnapping and murder yet another crime was being committed against the 16 year old victim and her family– grave desecration.


Perhaps even while testimony was being given that would send Toni Fratto to trial for Micaela’s murder some stole the cross that marked the place of killing.


The hand made wooden cross was placed by family friends Tracy and Todd Woofinden where she was killed and buried. Poignantly the cross was erected on what would have been Micaela Costanzo’s 17th birthday on May 3rd.


“It was so beautiful, I know Todd worked on it so hard,” said Celia Costanzo to the High Desert Advocate. “We are Catholics, and while Mickey was buried at our family’s ranch but this was her first resting place (referring to the gravel pit five miles west of town where her daughter’s body was discovered in a shallow grave). the family grave yard is so far away and hard to get to. I think it was nice that there is a little shrine that is easy for her friends to get to.”


The cross was stolen between July 11 and July 14. Coincidentally the preliminary hearing of Toni Fratto was held on July 13 and July 14. According to costanzo only the cross was stolen everything else, the flowers, photos and written tributes are still there.


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“After everything that has happened it feels like we have been violated all over again.” Mrs. Costanzo said. “Why would anyone do something like this? How could anyone do something like that?”


Tracy Woffinden echoed Mrs. Costanzo’s sentiments and added “I really don’t want to know who did it. I don’t want to know why. All I want is for the cross to be returned.” she told the Advocate, Wednesday.


On Mickey Costanzo’s memorial facebook page Woffinden wrote: “I am going to keep posting and reposting till this (her appeal for the cross’s return) gets taken care of!


People, this cross is missing from the memorial spot!!! I am not impressed and just sick to think that someone would take this!….If you know any info, please let us know! Message me privately! We need this returned!! This is such an injustice!!”


Responders to to Woffinden’s appeal speculated on the sanity of the perpetuator while others called for retribution divine or otherwise.


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But while the theft of the cross may have all the hallmarks of a sick mind, the act itself while revolting may not have been illegal.


Grave desecration is not specifically if Nevada Revised Statutes and although it was a touching memorial to a young girl the cross marked no grave. indeed because its location was on the NDOT gravel pit prosecutors would be hard pressed to charge even simple vandalism or theft if the perpetuator was ever identified.


“He or she could simply argue they took something that had been abandoned in the desert.” said one law enforcement officer who declined to be identified. “It was a pretty terrible thing to do but it may not have broken the law. On the other hand I would not want to be in his shoes if he ever gets identified either.”



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3 Weeks Set For Wells’ Cop Shooter Coca Trial

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

The trial of Wells cop shooter Peter Mark Coca could be a doozy just  judging by the amount of time, three weeks, it is scheduled to last.

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Coca pled not guilty to 14 felony counts including seven counts of attempted murder in his first appearance in Elko District Court. Elko District Judge Mike Memeo set his trial date to begin January 24, 2012. And based on recommendations by both coca’s lawyers and the District Attorney’s office, Memeo set aside three weeks for the case.

The charges stem from a February shooting spree that left one Elko County Deputy critically wounded after being shot five times and entire city in lock down for three days before Coca turned himself in to US Marshals in Wells.

Coca was arrested February 26 after he turned himself in to police following a three day search for the Wells electrical contractor.

Elko County Deputies and NHP troopers were called to the Wells’ man home in response to a ‘violent domestic dispute’ on February 24. When they arrived the saw Coca on the roof brandishing an assault rifle. From that rooftop snipers’ perch Coca held off the deputies and NHP troopers for about 30 minutes firing well over 50 rounds critically injuring one

Deputy Lenwood Van Natter was hit by multiple rifle shots in the chest, hip and legs. Deputy Van Natter was pulled from the scene by the other officers and air lifted to a Salt Lake City hospital.

Following a two day multi state manhunt Coca surrendered on February 26 in Wells where he had been hiding all along in a neighbor’s basement.

Shortly after his arrest Coca complained of chest pains and was sent for medical care and evaluation in Carson City. He was returned to the Elko County Jail on March 17.

Most criminal trials in Elko last at most two weeks and most court watchers predicted that the Coca case if indeed it made it before the jury would last just one.

“There are about a dozen eye witnesses,” said one law enforcement officer after Coca’s arrest this February. “It’s not like you need a detective to ferret out clues.”

Perhaps one does.

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In Coca’s preliminary hearing earlier this summer, Attorney Mark Guralnick argued albeit unsuccessfully that Coca should not be bound over for trial because the prosecution did not prove the Coca had shown ‘murderous intent’ during the shoot out.

The New Jersey attorney was not helped by the tape message his client left on the answering machine of a relative admitting that he shot a “couple of cops. Goodbye.”

Guralnick’s presence may indicate that the Wells businessman is going to put up a fight to stay out of prison.

Click below for video of Coca pleading

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Classified as “excellent” by the legal rating book Martindale Hubble, Guralnick according to his firm’s website operates a large legal firm specializing in a wide variety of law from criminal defense to personal injury.

And while the  no murderous intent defense may seem a bit farfetched especially when doctors say Deputy Van Natter was not killed only because he was wearing body armor, it has been successful in an Elko County court room before.

Some 20 years ago a Wells Police officer escaped an attempted murder conviction after unloading seven bullets into his wife’s lover after he caught the paramours in bed.

While convicted of the much lessor charge of assault with a deadly weapon, jurors were evidently persuaded by the defense argument that the accused was such a good shot he intentionally avoided all vital organs of his victims.

The ex-policeman subsequently served less than 5 years in a minimum security prison and within a short time after his release had the felony expunged from his record. He was later elected to serve on the Wells City Council.

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West Wendover Business Licenses Fall To Record Low– 171

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

West Wendover saw a slight increase in the number of local businesses operating in town this year but a steep drop in the number of non-local firms more than offset any gains according to the annual business license report.


According to City Clerk Anna Bartlome there are a total of 171 businesses in West Wendover, 100 of which are local and 71 non-local. That is a 5.00 percent drop from last year total of 180. It is the lowest number of businesses ever recorded for West Wendover since even before incorporation in 1991.


In July 2010 there were 93 local business and 87 non-local.


Local businesses are defined by companies that have a physical presence in West Wendover and include everything from home based businesses run part time to apartment complexes and casinos.


“If there is an office or a building or a physical address in West Wendover it is counted as a local business,” Bartlome said. “Even if the owner or the corporate offices are located out of town. Non local business are like the Schwanns food that come to town but have no office.”


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In 2007 the city changed its criteria of what constituted a “local” business. Under the new criteria some businesses are considered local if they have a West Wendover address even if they are in fact owned by nonresident individuals or corporations.


All five of Wendover Casinos are considered local in the city’s new count even though their corporate headquarters are not located in Wendover. The same is true for West Wendover apartment complexes and for most of the fast food franchises.


Excluding those business from the list the number of locally owned and operated businesses falls below 60 in West Wendover an embarrassingly small number for a city with a population of about 5,000.


The dearth of private enterprise is most acute in the retail industry which apart from Smith’s Food Store is virtually nonexistent in West Wendover.


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Purchases as simple as a computer printer ink, a telephone or even a coffee maker available literally in a half a dozen locations in communities of similar or even smaller sizes as Wendover, often necessitate a 240 mile round trip to Salt Lake City to the east or Elko to the west.


In the past five years West Wendover has seen a number of relatively large retailers also leave town such as Park Furniture, Bargain Barn Serendipity and Blanchard’s Furniture. Two years ago it saw the closure of one of its two full service banks, Nevada Bank and Trust. This year the closures spread to entertainment with the closure of the only non-casino restaurant and a night club.


While generally depressing there are some signs of green shoots. A clothing store and a discount general goods store open where the video store once operated.


    Nine years ago that West Wendover earned the title of Nevada’s fastest growing city by more than doubling its population from over 2,000 when the city incorporated in 1991 to well over 4,000 in 2001.


In addition to an almost exponential increase in single family homes West Wendover saw three new apartment complexes and three new mobile homes parks built in less than ten years.


Small retailers also flourished.


But at its peak in 2001 the boom began to bust. Facing financial disaster the StateLine Casino Corporation began to pare down its work force and unknown to many of its employees began to cut payments to the company’s health insurer.


The crisis reach its peak in 2002 when the company declared bankruptcy and was later sold at auction. Hundreds of jobs were lost and even workers who retained employment found their life savings wiped out by medical bills they thought they were insured for but were not.


But while the StateLine bankruptcy can explain the beginning of the bust the stagnation that followed cannot be put on the shoulders of a company that has not existed for eight years.


Instead Wendover’s economic stagnation is probably due to a combination of factors some within and some outside of the city’s control.


Small retailers and home based business owners have frequently complained about West Wendover’s over regulation of private enterprise that borders to the point of harassment.


From the color of paint to a building to exactly what merchandize a store may sell often becomes an item on the city council’s agenda. The city recently approved a requirement for prospective business owners to submit for finger prints as part of its back ground check.


“I would love to see the city council loosen up or rescind some of the restrictions on business,” said West Wendover Mayor Donnie Anderson last year . “But this current council has so far been unwilling.”


Anderson who won a landslide victory in 2008 in part on that plat form but has been stymied on almost every occasion by the hold over city council.


Just last year the new mayor strongly endorsed developer Steve Weinstein’s request that the city allow his project- the Rusty Palms to apply for a class one casino license without having to build a 150 room hotel.


The council put in a 150 room hotel room minimum the year before at the behest of the Peppermill.


Then Weinstein asked the council to either rescind the ordinance or at least extend the time between the construction of the casino property and the construction of the 150 room hotel. Weinstein explained that because of the national recession his anchor tenant had to withdraw from the venture and that no replacement business could be found.


“I think Mr. Weinstein came more than halfway,” Anderson said in a telephone interview at the time. “All he wanted was time so he could phase in the hotel rooms. He said he was willing to pay the room taxes even if he didn’t have the rooms. That adds up to $250,000 a year to the city. Double that because those people are going to have to stay somewhere else so the city would have gotten two room taxes.”


Despite the economic windfall Weinstein was beaten before the meeting even began.


With the Peppermill corporation employing four of the five current councilmen Weinstein request was shot down in flames not once but twice in two consecutive meetings.


The four Peppermill councilmen were later fined by the state ethics board but their votes were allowed to stand even after they admitted in depositions that they were specifically told by their superiors in private meetings before the vote their company did not want the ordinance rescinded and that no compromise was acceptable.


The vote did have its desired effect, despite completing the entire building Weinstein was forced to abandon the Rusty Palms last month. It now sits empty just north of I-80.


West Wendover loss of business appear to be Wendover, Utah’s gain in just three years the city on the other side of the state border has increased its business license roll by over 100 to 273 according to City Clerk Tamara Weyland.


“Most are small businesses or home based,” Weyland said last year.


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Kody Patten Prelim Hearing August 2 & 3

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

Confessed killer Kody Patten will appear in Elko Justice Court August 2 and 3 for his preliminary hearing on the murder of 16 year old West wendover Girl Mickey Costanzo.


Patten’s codefendant in the case Toni Fratto was already bound over for trial two weeks ago in a similar hearing.


The two had been scheduled to appear together much to the consternation of Fratto’s defense team of John Springgate and David Lockie.


“I wouldn’t call it a victory but we are relieved the two will be separated,” Lockie said Monday.


By separating them at the preliminary hearing stage, Kacin may have put the two a divergent tracks for trial and it is less and less likely that the Fratto and Patten will be tried at the same time in the same court or even with the same judge.


Unlike a trial where a jury or judge rules on the guilt or innocence of the accused, a preliminary hearing’s objection is to determine whether there is enough evidence against the accused and the judge must find there is probable cause that a crime was committed.


The rules of evidence are also much looser in a preliminary hearing than a trial, hearsay for example is typically allowed.


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Patten was arrested for the March 3rd murder of Micaela Costanzo three days after she had gone missing and within a few hours after her body was discovered in a shallow grave some 5 miles west of Wendover.


Patten cracked and admitted to killing the young girl after an all night interrogation session and a phone call to his father Kip. According to police reports at no time during the intense 8 hours of so of questioning did Patten implicate his live in girlfriend Fratto in the crime and indeed may have even used her as his alibi.


For the first six weeks after his arrest, it was the position of the Elko District Attorney’s office and the Elko Sheriff’s Department that Kody Patten was the sole suspect in the case and would alone stand trial for the murder of Micaela Costanzo.


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All that changed early last month when John Ohlson, Patten’s lead attorney released the bombshell confession from Toni Fratto in which she claims it was she and not her lover who killed Costanzo. Within 24 hours of Ohlson’s release of the taped confession to the court, Fratto was arrested and charged with the death penalty eligible open murder of her classmate.


“This was almost the perfect murder case, really cut and dried,” said a source close to the investigation. “There was a mountain of evidence against Patten; forensic and digital recordings, there was his confession and all the supporting facts. Then Toni Fratto walks in and everything blows up.”


Murder trials are often compared to card games, this one is now a three sided 52 pickup.


Time and time again Ohlson is mentioned in support of the DA’s assertion that Fratto’s confession is not protected by the attorney/client privilege. And for their part Fratto’s lawyers accused Ohlson of blatantly misleading their client and perhaps even violating the attorney rules of conduct.


Ohlson is not the only one to come harsh criticism from Springgate and Lockie. Kip Patten, Kody’s father also comes under the gun for unduly influencing Fratto. According to the response Kip Patten took the opportunity the absence of Toni Fratto’s parents Cassie and Claud, from town to drive their daughter from Wendover 110 miles to Elko for that fateful meeting in Kump’s office.


Kip Patten also figures prominently in Kacin’s ruling and was a key witness for the prosecution during the hearing.


According to the ruling Fratto went to her lovers father about a week before she went to his attorneys with her tale.


On the witness stand Patten explained why he went to his son’s lawyers rather than the police with the information stating something to the effect he had no confidence in the police to investigate Fratto’s claims.


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Small, small worries. Big, big worries.

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

Our father-in-law of blessed memory used to say this about children; petit, petit souci, grand, grand soucis.


Apart from confirming the fact he was French, it also confirms that he was a very wise man.


Roughly translated our father-in-law saying is this:


Small, small worries.


Big, big worries.


Our youngest, Lou, just returned from summer camp in Oregon.


At 11 he is not so small anymore but neither is he very big.


Our worries for him while he was away concerned mostly food, broken legs and bears. We are happy to report that they were all unfounded.


Just as Lou returned home his older brother by eight years Arieh, entered basic training for an elite infantry unit of the Israeli army.


We do not want to even articulate our worries for him. Suffice it to say we sometimes can’t sleep.


Indeed not sleeping is how we handled it when Arieh’s older brother was in the Gaza war.


It worked too, three weeks of not sleeping saw him return safe, sound and whole.


Perhaps it really isn’t fair to compare three weeks of generally having fun on the beach in Oregon with what will be six months of basic training hell. On the other hand it is.


No one is born a 19 year old beautiful young man, strong enough to take on evil and naive enough to try. We get there by baby steps, literally at first. Then before you know it, you are the grown up.


Funny thing is the fears don’t go away. The things we fear simply change. as children we had our parents check under our bed for monsters and startled at the bumps in the night. as young soldiers we searched out houses for the enemy and startled at bumps in the night. As young fathers we checked under the beds of our children and startled at bumps in the night.


Now as older fathers we sleep through most bumps, that is when we are not awake worrying.


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White Pine District Court July 25, 2011

Posted on 28 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Tina Lousie Griffin


Joey Franklin Lerch


Brad Lani


Marcos Lee Burnal


Robert Eugene Kinternknecht



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Wells Cop Shooter Coca Pleads Not Guilty, Three Weeks Set For Trial, January 2012

Posted on 27 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Elko District Court July 25, 2011

Posted on 27 July 2011 by Howard Copelan






Part 1

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Mon 7-25



   CR-FP-10-1123 York, Edward  (DA/Lee) Arraignment (Possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Sale)


   CR-FP-11-445 Rodriguez, Sasha Lorain (DA/Lee) Arraignment (Possession of a Controlled Sub.)


   CR-FP-10-2415 Giardinelli, David Mautner (DA/Lee) Arraignment (Possession of a Controlled Substance) (Transportation of a Controlled Substance)


   CR-FP-97-211 Mains, Roger Keith (DA/Leddy) Status Hearing (Driving Under the Influence with Two or More Prior Convictions)


   CR-FP-10-547 Soto, Kelly Anthony (DA/Stewart) Arraignment (Conspiracy to Commit Possession of a Controlled Substance)


   CR-FO-10-2095 Vivanco-Vazquez, Luis (DA/Stewart) Arraignment (Conspiracy to Commit Possession of Unlawfully Reproduced Sound Recording for the Purposes of Sale)


   CR-FP-11-95 Bush, Melba Jolene (DA/Foster) Arraignment (Altering or Forging a Prescription for a Controlled Substance)


Part 2

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   CR-FO-11-259 Mendoza, Ludivina (DA/Lockie) Arraignment (Using Personal Identification of Another for Unlawful Purpose)


   CR-FP-10-2101 Jimenez, Juan (DA/Whiteside) Trial Setting (Trafficking in a Schedule I Controlled Substance)


   CR-FP-11-0267 Coca, Peter Mark (DA/Guralnick/Loreman) Arraignment (Attempted Murder with Use of a Deadly Weapon/Battery with the Use of a Deadly Weapon Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm)


   CR-FO-10-2073 Henris, Nicholas Andrew (DA/Kump) Sentencing (Making, Uttering, Possessing with Intent to Utter a Fictitious Bill, Note or Check)


   CR-FP-10-2363 Rees, Dustin (DA/Kump) Arraignment (Possession of a Controlled Substance)


   CR-FP-10-1851 Kusener, Jared Keith (DA/Kump) Sentencing (Conspiracy to Commit Battery Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm)



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City Looks To Restructure Debt

Posted on 26 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

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West Wendover Arraignments July 18, 2011

Posted on 26 July 2011 by Howard Copelan

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