The prosecutor in the murder trial of Santa Maria teen Dystiny Myers reminded jurors during his closing arguments Thursday that an unfortunate process of a jury trial is the victim is often forgotten.
“Don’t forget Dystiny Myers,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Covello told the jury of nine women and three men.
Myers, 15, was murdered sometime between Sept. 25 and 26, 2010, after she was savagely attacked at a Nipomo home where she had been staying for about a week prior to her death.
Her badly charred and bound body was discovered by firefighters in the early hours of Sept. 26 in a shallow grave just east of Santa Margarita, where four men allegedly dumped her corpse and lit it on fire.
“They were trying to erase this 15-year-old girl and everything she had,” Covello said during his almost three-hour closing statement.
Outside the jury’s presence, Gerald Carrasco, York’s attorney called for a mistrial claiming Covello prejudiced jurors by calling his client a child molester.
“This is further inclined to enflame their passions,” Carrasco said about Covello’s statement to the jury.
Covello told jurors that Wisto, in part, ordered Myers’ murder to protect her son, who he alleged was having sex with the teen. York was 19 at the time of the killing.
Judge Barry LaBarbera denied the motion and said the statement was unfavorable but Covello likely meant to say York was having a sexual relationship with a minor.
Now, jurors must decide whether Nipomo resident Rhonda Maye Wisto and her son, Frank Jacob York, are guilty of first-degree murder for the girl’s death.
The beating of Myers took place at Wisto’s home, and prosecutors allege the woman ordered the teen’s murder.
Mother and son have also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, torture, kidnapping and aiding-and-abetting for Myers’ death.
Also charged in the girl’s slaying were Jason Adam Greenwell, Cody Lane Miller and Ty Michael Hill, who was facing the death penalty for his role in the murder.
Hill of Santa Maria pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder earlier this year and was sentenced to life in prison. He won’t be eligible for parole and can’t appeal his conviction.
Miller, a key witness in the case, was sentenced to life without parole Tuesday for the part he played in Myers’ death after reneging earlier in the week on a plea bargain to testify for the prosecution in the case.
Greenwell agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced to 15 years to life with the possibility of parole as part of a plea bargain. He testified for the prosecution, recounting the night that Myers was attacked and killed.
He said that he overheard Wisto and Hill discussing how to dispose of a body in the days prior to the girl’s death and that he also heard Hill tell Wisto to get him something that would “burn really hot and really fast.”
Greenwell told the jury all four men participated in the savage beating of Myers, which left her with three skull fractures and numerous broken ribs. She was beaten with a baseball bat, brass knuckles and a sword, as well as kicked, stomped and punched.
After the beating, the men bound the girl with rope and duct tape, stuffing her in a duffel bag, while Wisto was allegedly gathering the items needed to burn the teen’s body, Greenwell said.
“This was a group effort in every single, possible way,” Covello said, adding everything Greenwell testified about was the truth and corroborated by other witnesses.
Wisto allegedly told a cellmate at County Jail that she wouldn’t ever be convicted of Myers’ murder because she didn’t take part in the beating, but Covello told jurors the woman had more motive than anyone to want the girl dead.
He said she wanted to protect her budding criminal enterprise and criminal reputation with street gangs, as well as protect her son, and get retribution for thefts she alleged Myers perpetrated against her.
Covello contends Wisto ordered Myers’ murder because she believed the teen was disrespectful, had stolen from her and knew too much about illegal activities taking place at the woman’s Mars Court home.
The home was a safe house for methamphetamine users, as well as a place where individuals bought and sold narcotics, according to the prosecution.
“If Dystiny Myers goes away and talks, this whole thing comes crumbling down on her head,” Covello said. “When Rhonda Wisto has a 15-year-old girl in her face, who has a big mouth and is going to do what she wants to do, that’s not going to work for her.”
Several witnesses testified that Myers, a runaway, had wanted to leave Wisto’s home and go back to Santa Maria, where her mother and grandmother live. Greenwell testified the girl was planning to leave Nipomo the night of her murder, which precipitated the attack and her subsequent death.
Myers died from mechanical asphyxiation and blunt-force trauma. She also had toxic levels of methamphetamine in her system, which contributed to her death, according to an autopsy report.
If York and Wisto are found guilty of kidnapping during the commission of a murder, they face maximum sentences of life without parole.