It happens in all murder trials, the family of the victim sits in the wooden pews, nervously awaiting the words that will either vindicate the accused or bring them justice. Most people hope that justice will be served, but often, the whims of the jury are fickle.
This is a story about a terrible night, a terrible loss, and the terrible grief that followed. Yet it is also about the power of the justice system and the search for truth amidst the lies of the guilty…
Awaiting the Verdict
The grieving family waited in the front bench of the courtroom. Molly was dead and the man responsible was about to be either found guilty or set free. Her mother Joan and her father Thomas nervously awaiting the answer that would alter their future entirely, and that of their grandchildren.
Home in the Winter
Molly’s death had happened many months earlier of course, but having to relive the gory details of it day after day in the courtroom, meant that the wounds were still very raw. The incident happened on a cold, February night. Molly and her husband Chris were at home and their two kids, a 6-year-old daughter, and 2-year-old son, were already in bed…
It had been a fairly pleasant night for the couple. Things were tenuous between them, as they had been for some time, but the evening had come and gone without an argument, and that was good enough. Molly went up to bed after tucking in the kids, but Chris lingered to watch some television.
Chris wasn’t tired at all. He sat and watched television and in his mind, dreadful thoughts began to swirl around. Thoughts of inadequacy, of mistrust, and of worry. There were other thoughts there too, in the dark recesses of his mind: murderous thoughts. It was at that moment he made a terrible life-altering decision…
Had to Do It
He crept towards the bedroom and stood above her as she slept. She was sound asleep in the bed they had shared so many times, but something inside him had snapped. Perhaps it had snapped a long time before, but whatever the reason, he had come into the room wielding a sharpened chef’s knife.
Chris took the kitchen knife and plunged it deep into his wife’s body. He stabbed furiously, time and again, before eventually, she bled out. He left the knife embedded in her neck. He couldn’t believe that he had done it. Inside, part of him regretted what he’d done. There was another part though, that wanted to add insult to injury…
Chris had fatally stabbed his wife and as if that weren’t enough, he felt the need to let people know what he had done. He took out his cellphone and snapped some pictures of her body, you know, for posterity, but realized that through the marvels of modern technology, he could send them into the world right then and there.
He then proceeded to send the gruesome photos of her body to his friends. The text that accompanied the pictures indicated that he had killed her and that he needed someone to care for their children. Children like the couple’s two-year-old son who was actually in one of the pictures next to Molly’s dead body…
Several of Chris Fratantonio called the police and before long, they arrived at the house. Chris was unarmed and seemed defeated, out of it. They took him away and awaited the arrival of Thomas and Joan Kilbourne, Molly’s parents. Not only did they have to give them the bad news, but they also had to tell them that responsibility for the two young children now fell upon them.
Couldn’t Take It
Once he was brought in for questioning, Christopher Fratantonio launched into a tirade of reasons for committing the heinous crime. He told police that his wife was cruel and demanding and that she belittled him constantly. According to him, that behavior only got worse when she didn’t get the drugs she needed. It strained credulity for sure…
Gentle and Caring
Joan Kilbourne, however, had a very different interpretation of her daughter: and so did just about everyone else who knew her. “Molly was a gentle, caring person, attentive mother and award-winning teacher,” she said of the 35-year-old mother. According to her, Chris was the one who was guilty of all those crimes.
Molly’s brother, Ian McClatchy, also had a bunch to say about Fratantonio. He called his brother-in-law “a savage psychopath” and “a violent predator.” It wasn’t off-base either. I mean, what kind of man lets his young daughter and his toddler see their mother’s brutally slain body? Well, the police decided to look into just the type of man he was…
Relentless and Controlling
Phone records showed that Fratantonio was relentless in his desire to control her daughter’s every move. He terrorized Molly and the children. He kicked in doors, kept tabs on her whenever she went out and was withholding with the money they both shared. As it happens he also happened to be a murderer.
Did but Didn’t
Though he had made the calls, sent the pics, and held the knife, Frantantonio’s lawyer was determined to try and make it seem like the crime wasn’t his fault. This would prove to be daunting for anyone, especially since most juries possess a modicum of logical sense. In order to subvert that logic, the attorney called in some medical professionals…
Dr. Wade Myers, a forensic psychiatrist, was brought in to testify for the defense. He said that when Fratantonio was stabbing his helpless, sleeping wife, he was “acting on primitive emotion.” This emotion diminished his capacity to act rationally, and that all of this stemmed from lingering post-traumatic stress from his childhood.
Colleen Duarte, Frantantonio’s defense attorney, went on to argue the post-traumatic stress stemmed from him having suffered sexual abuse as a child. That wasn’t all though, she also claimed that his two concussions, a dependence disorder that was focused on his wife, as well as anxiety and depression, all invariably led him to murder his wife…
No Mental Dysfunction
The prosecution had a rebuttal witness who came in to dispute the former doctor’s claims. Dr. Martin Kelly said that Fratantonio was capable of acting with intent and had thought about stabbing his wife for some time before he did the deed. “He had no mental disease to impair his capacity to intend…he picked up the knife and put it down, went outside and had a cigarette. He was debating.” explained the doctor.
In his closing argument, the lead prosecutor told jurors that “whether a mental condition was there, there was still the ability for that purposeful act to kill and deliberately premeditate the murder.” His words hit home for many because the jury only needed two hours of deliberation to decide his fate…
Hours of Deliberation
The jury found Christopher Fratantonio guilty of first-degree murder of his wife, Molly. They noted that it was clearly premeditated and acted out with extreme atrocity and cruelty. Fratantonio received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Justice was done at last and the family let out a sigh of relief.
“My family and I will never recover from losing Molly; my heart breaks every day,” said. Joan Kilbourne. As for the couple’s children, they are currently living with Thomas and Joan, who are treating them with all the love, safety, security, and care that they need to deal with what they’ve had to suffer through. They will love the kids like they need to be loved for as long as they’re around.