Little is known of what led to the murder of 15-year-old Dystiny Myers, but the grief of her loss has rippled through the community.
The Santa Maria teenager’s burned body was found Sept. 26 in a remote area near Santa Margarita.
Those close to Myers say they don’t know the five suspects who have been arrested and charged with murder in her death: Jason Adam Greenwell, 20, Frank Jacob York, 19, and Rhonda Maye Wisto, 47, all of Nipomo; Ty Michael Hill, 28, of Santa Maria; and Cody Lane Miller, 22, of Fresno.
As family and friends mourn Myers’ death, they are also left with questions about why she strayed over the past year, and with a resonating anger that her life was taken at such a young age in such a horrific way.
The Rev. Rick Bloom, pastor of Pacific Christian Center in Santa Maria, had known Myers for more than 11 years through her and her grandmother’s involvement in the church. Myers was also involved in the youth group there.
Acting as the family spokesman, Bloom described Myers as spirited, engaged and endowed with the “voice of an angel.”
Raised by her grandmother, Kathlene Clark of Santa Maria, Myers attended Adams, Alvin and Robert Bruce elementary schools and El Camino Junior High.
She was considerate, welcoming, talkative and kind and loved her family, Bloom said.
She was also courageous.
When her 2-month-old cousin Angel Myers died, Myers sang at his funeral.
“She struggled with it because she was so overwhelmed with emotion,” said Bloom, adding that Myers sang lead in multiple performances by the children’s choir at the church. “But she sang a beautiful song.”
Bloom said he and many others are angry.
“I pray for justice,” Bloom said. “A lot of the congregation is angry, and I am reminding people that it isn’t revenge that they want but justice. We want justice to be done to the people that have done this awful deed, and we want them put in a position that they can’t hurt anyone else.”
Katie Warwick, 15, of Santa Maria, was in the Girl Scouts with Myers when she was younger and kept in touch with her through church.
“She fell into the wrong crowd at the wrong time, but she was still a good person,” Warwick said. “I don’t know why this happened to Dystiny.”
Warwick described her as sweet and easy to get along with.
“She was just going through a weird phase that a lot of middle and high school students go through trying to figure out who they are,” Warwick said.
Myers’ junior high school principal remembered the teen for her willingness to stand up to bullies on campus and her passion for riding her scooter around campus with a friend.
El Camino Junior High Principal Ann D’Angelo-Orton said teachers and staff members who knew the former student well are greatly saddened by her death.
D’Angelo-Orton recalls her “sweetness” as a student who developed bonds with teachers and staff at a school with a large low-income student population.
“She was joyful, energetic and a fighter for the underdog, and she would stand up and defend other students against bullies,” D’Angelo-Orton said. “She’ll be missed by many here.”
But as those close to her throughout her youth struggle to accept her death, so do the friends Myers made in the last year as she “strayed” from her path.
Myers’ profile page on the MySpace online social network depicts another side to the young girl’s life.
She’d dyed her hair dark from the blond she had had for so many years. Pictures on the page show her with tattoos and a lip piercing.
Comments on MySpace relating to a lifestyle of drug and alcohol use and hard partying are a stark contrast to the teenager that Bloom and D’Angelo-Orton describe.
Those she befriended through the social network site, and possibly in person during the past year while she was absent from her family, are also grieving for her.
They are posting comments about their sorrow over her loss, about tears that won’t stop and about wanting answers.
Bloom said he struggled with what he found on the site.
“It is not something I was expecting,” he said. “It was not the side of her that I had seen all these years.”
Bloom said he recently spoke with members of the church who say they visited Myers several times in the past year and that she had expressed a desire to come back and get her life straightened out.
“I don’t know why this terrible thing happened, but I do have firsthand evidence that she was thinking about coming back and making her life whole again,” Bloom said. “Many people stray in their lives and are given a chance to see the light and come back. She will never have the opportunity because of her life being snuffed out like this.”
Tribune staff writer Nick Wilson contributed to this report. Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.