A month before his death-penalty trial was set to begin, a defendant in the Dystiny Myers murder case entered a surprise guilty plea Wednesday, agreeing to a life prison term without the possibility of parole.
Ty Michael Hill, one of five defendants charged with killing the 15-year-old Santa Maria girl, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. According to the terms of the plea, he will not be allowed to appeal his case.
A rarity for high-profile cases, Hill was also formally sentenced on the same day he entered his plea. During the emotional hearing, members of Myers family told the court how the murder has affected them.
Myers partially burned body was found by firefighters in Santa Margarita in September 2010.
The teens mother, Aileen Myers, said she and her two sons have been constantly reminded of Dystinys absence ever since.
We just wait and wait and wait, and she doesnt come home, she said. And shes never gonna come home.
With her eyes closed, Aileen Myers struggled to keep her composure as she spoke off the cuff at a podium. Meanwhile, members of Hills family, sitting on one side of the courtroom, cried at the same time as members of Myers family, seated on the other side of the room.
Every day for me is like the first day I was told, Aileen Myers said.
Before she spoke, Aileen Myers sat next to her two sons, who struggled to hold back tears.
Mary Rogers, an aunt, said Dystiny Myers and her younger brother, Joshua, were best friends.
It was like watching a comedy show, they were that much alike, she said.
Myers grandmother, who along with Aileen Myers has attended most of the cases many hearings, held an enlarged photo of Myers as she spoke.
I remember a child who used to run and sing and play, said the grandmother, Kathy Clark.
Because of the murder, she said, she will miss Myers going to prom, graduating from high school and having children. But, she said, her spiritual beliefs assure her that shell see her granddaughter again.
I know that Dystinys up there right now, and Dystinys at peace with herself, she said.
During the hearing, Hill cried, wiping his eyes with tissues several times. But he did not look at Myers family as they spoke, and he did not offer any statement.
Still, two members of the victims family addressed him.
I just want Mr. Hill to know that I do forgive him, Clark said.
Myers mother, however, took a different stance.
All I can say is Im sorry for you, Mr. Hill, she said. And I cannot forgive you.
Hills plea simplifies what was going to be a complicated trial, with separate juries for Hill the only defendant facing the death penalty and the other defendants. One defendant, Jason Adam Greenwell, has already agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his court testimony. That leaves three other defendants, Cody Lane Miller, Rhonda Maye Wisto and her son, Frank Jacob York.
Their trial is still set to begin in February.
According to past testimony, Wisto ordered the killing, saying Myers had been disrespectful.