Known as “The Puppet Master” to fellow inmates, Rhonda Wisto told her county jail cell mate that she wasn’t impacted by the murder of Dystiny Myers, whom she called a “nobody” that no one would miss, the inmate testified Thursday.
“She made it a point to say how bad her (Myers) behavior was in the way she looked and the activities she was involved in,” Tabatha Brown told jurors. “She (Wisto) didn’t seem to be too concerned with her.”
Wisto and her son, Frank Jacob York, are currently on trial in Superior Court for the September 2010 murder of Myers, a 15-year-old runaway who had been staying at Wisto’s Nipomo home.
In a day full of previously unheard details, another witness said the defendants in the case had “prostituted” Myers. Meanwhile, a prosecution witness described jailhouse letters between Wisto and her son, and jurors saw the first of two videotaped interviews with York and police.
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Brown, who was sentenced to close to 15 years in prison last fall for her role in a Paso Robles murder and robbery, said she kept notes about her conversations with Wisto, who was her cell mate for six months while both were facing charges. Wisto, she said, had given herself the nickname “Puppet Master” because she could have other people do things for her.
“It was a big joke at the jail,” Brown said.
Prosecutors allege that Wisto ordered the Myers murder, which four men – York, Ty Hill, Cody Miller and Jason Greenwell – carried out.
Wisto told Brown she didn’t think she would get convicted because she didn’t actually participate in the attack on Myers. She also said people don’t miss girls like Myers when they disappear.
While Brown was keeping notes about her conversations with Wisto, Damon Anderson, who was in a jail cell next to York, testified he was purposely goading York into writing incriminating notes. While Anderson’s gang and white supremacist involvement might look down upon his snitching, he said, he knew Myers and wanted to bring the responsible parties to justice.
While the convicted felon admitted to committing violence himself, he said, the murder of Myers would be frowned upon even in gang culture.
“No women, no children,” he said. “Ever. Period.”
Anderson, who also knew Wisto and York, said the defendants in the case had prostituted Myers, without further elaboration.
“At one point she decided she wanted to leave,” Anderson said. That’s when the others decided to attack her, he said.
In one note, he said, York told him his mother procured the items Hill requested to kill and bury Myers.
Both Brown and Anderson said they did not offer testimony in exchange for lighter sentences.
J.T. Camp, an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, said he reviewed over 4,100 pages of letters written by and to the five suspects while in jail, including letters between Wisto and her son.
Early on, York, writing a friend, noted that he hadn’t communicated with his mother in a while.
“She must have figured out that I am really mad at her for all of this,” he wrote.
But later he wrote his mother, pining for their lost relationship. In a poem to her, he wrote, “I miss the good thing we had together before we lost our way” and “I’m sitting here missing you so much it hurts.”
In Wisto’s letters, she advises York not to speak to anyone about the case, warning him of potential snitches.
Michael Hoier, a sheriff’s deputy and former gang task force member, said the language used in Wisto’s letters featured common gang terminology, including the phrase “much respect.”
While there are no gang charges in the case, the prosecution alleges that Wisto associated with gangs, even giving herself a gang moniker – Rabbit.
During the first of York’s interviews with police, he initially said he only kicked Myers twice, after the others had beaten her and tied her up.
He described Hill as the ringleader, who felt Myers was disrespectful.
“I even told her, ‘Can’t you be a little nicer? Can’t you be respectful?’” he told Robert Burgeson, a sheriff’s detective. “She just popped off. Kept popping off.”