Murder of Kirsten Costas
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Kirsten Marina Costas
July 23, 1968
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Died||June 23, 1984 (aged 15)|
Orinda, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Stabbing|
|Education||Miramonte High School|
The daughter of affluent parents, Arthur and Berit Costas, she and her brother, Peter, grew up in the small suburban town of Orinda, California. Costas attended Miramonte High School, and was a member of the school's varsity swim team and the cheerleading squad.
On June 23, 1984, Costas was lured with a phony invitation to a dinner for the Bob-o-Links, a sorority-like group at school. According to Protti's later testimony, she had planned to take Costas to the party to befriend her, but Costas got angry when she was told that there was no dinner for the new "Bobbies". The girls quarreled, and Costas fled to the home of Alex and Mary Jane Arnold, living nearby, telling them that her friend had gone "weird". When Costas could not reach her parents by telephone, Alex Arnold drove her home, noticing that a Pinto–the Protti family's car–was following them. At the Costas home, Arnold, sitting in his car, saw Protti attack Costas. He thought that he was seeing a fist fight, but in fact Protti stabbed Costas five times with a butcher knife and fled. The Costas' neighbors called an ambulance, but Kirsten was mortally wounded and died at a nearby hospital.
It took the police almost six months to find Costas' killer. Protti passed a lie detector test, but her alibi went unverified. After attempting to confirm Protti's alibi the police suspected that the girl had lied. After speaking with an FBI officer who informed her that her arrest was imminent and that they knew she killed Kirsten, Protti wrote her mother a letter in which she made a full confession.
Protti claimed to have found the kitchen knife by chance, and her elder sister, Virginia Varela, testified in court that she kept that knife in her car to cut vegetables. The Costases did not believe Protti's story – they asserted that nobody would use a butcher knife to slice tomatoes and that Protti, casually dressed on that evening, never intended to take Kirsten to a party but had planned to murder her. Protti was sentenced to a maximum of nine years, but was released seven years later on parole.
American filmmaker James Benning covered the aftermath of the murder in his 1987 documentary Landscape Suicide.
In 1994, the story was made into a television movie entitled A Friend to Die For (also known as Death of a Cheerleader), with Tori Spelling as Stacy Lockwood, a character based on Kirsten Costas and Kellie Martin as Angela Delvecchio, a character based on Bernadette Protti. It was remade by Lifetime as a 2019 television movie, starring Aubrey Peeples as Bridget Moretti and Sarah Dugdale as Kelli Locke playing characters based on Protti and Costas, respectively, with Kellie Martin also appearing.
Costas' murder was featured in an episode of Killer Kids called Rumors & The To-Do List.
- "Girl, 16, Convicted in Classmate's Slaying : Teen-ager Feared Victim 'Was Going to Tell People I Was Weird'". Los Angeles Times. March 14, 1985. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
- "The State". Los Angeles Times. April 2, 1985. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
- Curry-Reyes, Traciy (January 28, 2019). "Bernadette Protti: Bernadette J. Protti Now, Kirsten Costas Timeline".
- Kovalchik, Kara. "Five murders and the movies they inspired". CNN. Retrieved 26 December 2017.