Before participating in the murder of Dystiny Myers, Frank Jacob York had his way with her, a prosecutor argued Thursday, which is partly why his mother had the 15-year-old girl murdered.
“Jacob York is not just a murderer,” argued Assistant District Attorney Tim Covello. “Rhonda Wisto has to protect him because he’s also a child molester.”
As attorneys offered closing arguments in the murder trial of York and his mother, Covello offered a theory that York had been sexually involved with Myers, a runaway who had been staying at Wisto’s Nipomo home.
If Myers had left — as was her plan — the teen would have told about sleeping with York, then 19, and she would have told about the drug activity at the home, Covello said, bringing trouble to York and Wisto. “And the whole thing comes crumbling down. It comes down on his head, and it comes down on her head.”
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After Covello’s allegation, York attorney Gerald Carrasco asked for a mistrial, saying it was “highly prejudicial.”
“There has not been any evidence to suggest that my client is a child molester,” he said in the court after Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera excused the jury for a break.
In response, Covello noted that York had written a fellow county jail inmate a note that said Myers was being prostituted. And it was revealed in testimony that York and Myers slept in the same bed.
After LaBarbera denied the mistrial request, Covello furthered his argument: “She was kept. She was used. She was tortured. She was murdered. She was disposed of.”
Covello has also argued that Myers had shown disrespect to Wisto, another motive for the crime. After she was allegedly beaten and bound, Myers’ burned body was found in rural Santa Margarita on Sept. 26, 2010.
Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria and Cody Lane Miller of Fresno have also pled guilty to murdering Myers.
Before the York and Wisto trial was given to the jury Thursday, the rest of Covello’s closing argument weighed heavily on the testimony of Jason Adam Greenwell, a Nipomo man who has agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the case.
Greenwell said Wisto and Hill planned the murder, and York helped carry it out.
Greenwell, who allegedly held Myers’ legs while York hit her with a bat, was the least culpable of the attackers, Covello said. Feeling remorse, he began cooperating with investigators the day after the crime.
Covello said Greenwell’s version of the events – offered to investigators well before a plea deal was made – was repeatedly backed by the “mountains of evidence” presented by other witnesses.
Wisto’s attorney, Michael Cummins, said Greenwell’s testimony was crucial to the prosecution.
“If you believe Jason Greenwell told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then you should convict my client,” Cummins told the jury.
But, he said, Greenwell is a “serial liar,” motivated to get a better deal that would allow him a chance to get parole some day.
There was no DNA or fingerprint evidence to implicate his client, he said.
But Wisto’s former cellmate, Tabatha Brown, testified that Wisto admitted to being involved in Myers’ death. Brown’s statements to police were offered after she was sentenced in a separate case.
With York’s DNA and fingerprints on the bat that was allegedly used in the attack, Carrasco conceded that his client was involved.
“But the real issue here is, if he’s guilty of murder, then in what capacity?” he said.
Intoxication, he said, is a defense to some elements of the crimes, particularly the intent, deliberation and premeditation needed for a first-degree murder conviction.
“This may be one where you say, ‘I don’t really like the law,’” he said, adding. “We are a nation of laws … even for him.”
Greenwell testified that the group had smoked methamphetamine the week leading up to the murder.
But Covello said getting high didn’t prevent the group from plotting the murder – which they did by writing and gathering a list of things needed to dispose of a body.
“It’s a goal-directed activity,” he said. “Every single step they made.”