Testimony in court Tuesday hinted at a possible motive for the September killing of Dystiny Myers when a detective said that one of the suspects allegedly told police that Myers was “being disrespectful.”
The second day of the preliminary hearing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court against five defendants accused of torturing and killing the 15-year-old Santa Maria girl concluded with a ruling from Judge Barry LaBarbera that sufficient evidence was presented to proceed to trial.
The defendants are Frank Jacob York, Rhonda Maye Wisto and Jason Adam Greenwell, all of Nipomo; Cody Lane Miller of Fresno; and Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria. They are scheduled to enter new pleas at an arraignment Feb. 24 in LaBarbera’s court. They previously entered not-guilty pleas.
The new arraignment also is the deadline to determine whether the prosecution will file death penalty charges against the defendants.
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Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole if the defendants are convicted.
York told sheriff’s detective Robert Burgeson that Wisto, his mother, ordered the beating and killing of Myers on Sept. 26 at their home in Nipomo.
When the detective asked why she wanted Myers dead, York responded that “she (Myers) was being disrespectful,” Burgeson testified in court.
But no statement from York or any of the other defendants discussed by investigators in court this week has detailed exactly how Myers was being disrespectful or specifically to whom.
Burgeson testified that he also interviewed Greenwell, who told him he’d heard Hill talk about harming Myers a couple of days before her death, but “nothing happened and (Greenwell) didn’t take it seriously.”
Each of the five defendants and Myers were using methamphetamines around the time of the alleged homicide, sheriff’s detective Patrick Zuchelli testified. It’s unclear if Myers was voluntarily using the drug.
Hill also gave Myers a shot of what Greenwell believed to be heroin before she was attacked on Sept. 26 in a bedroom in Wisto’s home with blows, kicks and a baseball bat, according to Burgeson.
The details of who participated in the beatings have differed in the statements of four of the defendants — Miller, Hill, Greenwell and York — to police.
But all five of the defendants have been identified as participants in some capacity in the attack on Myers, depending on the defendants’ version of events, according to detectives’ testimony. Despite the often cold-blooded behavior of the defendants as described by detectives, York told police that he told his mother he had second thoughts about the attack on Myers just before the beating, Burgeson testified. He said he was scared, Burgeson said. But York said his mother told him “stuff has to happen,” according to the detective.
“She told him not to worry, and that it would be OK,” Burgeson said. “She told him she loved him.”
York stated that Hill planned the attack and that Hill was familiar with the Santa Margarita location where Myers was found dead after being bound, beaten and burned. Authorities found her body in a dug-out pit about 5 a.m. Sept. 26, Burgeson said.
Hill also wanted to kill Miller, one of the suspects in the crime who ran into the woods near the crime scene after he was struck in the head with a shovel, York said, adding that he heard Hill say he wanted to chop Miller’s head off with a samurai sword.
Wisto had ordered the killing of Miller, who they believed to be a police informant, according to the police statement of Hill, who spoke with Santa Maria police supervisor Daniel Cohen.
No witnesses were called to the stand by the defense attorneys Tuesday, and no arguments were made by either side.