Dystiny Myers was brutally killed — her young body discovered beaten, burned and dumped in a remote grass field near Santa Margarita — a year ago Monday.
Her family has been left with memories, photographs and the anguish of knowing that her life was taken too soon. Myers was killed just a month after her 15th birthday.
“This is about a little girl whose life was taken,” said Kathy Clark, her grandma.
For Clark, the past year has been a struggle of balancing grief and anger — the overwhelming sadness of losing a granddaughter she had raised from infancy and the anger of knowing that she was killed mercilessly.
The five people accused of killing Myers — Jason Adam Greenwell, Frank Jacob York, Rhonda Maye Wisto, Ty Michael Hill and Cody Lane Miller — are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 3 when a trial date is expected to be set.
Each of the five is accused of premeditated murder with special circumstances of kidnapping, torture and aiding and abetting in the crime. All have pleaded not guilty to the allegations. Of the five, Hill is the only one facing the death penalty. As they await the trial, Myers’ death has drawn her family closer.
On a recent afternoon, Clark, who has reddish brown hair falling past her shoulders, beckoned Myers’ younger brother, Joshua, 12, to the chair where she sat before he slipped out for a bike ride.
“I love you,” Clark told him, the words spoken slowly, purposely. He leaned in, kissed her cheek and gave her a hug before leaving.
“Life is precious,” Clark said. “I don’t let him leave the house now without letting him know I love him.”
Clark says she doesn’t know any of the accused. The first time she saw them was at a court hearing. Clark said she looked up at them, searching for some sort of remorse in their eyes, but didn’t find it. She hasn’t been back. “I don’t even want to hear their names,” Clark said.
Her eyes welled with tears as she shared memories of her granddaughter: A vibrant, young girl who liked to play make-believe, who liked to sing and act and wanted be a model one day.
“When Dystiny walked into a room, the room started,” Clark said. “Everyone knew she had arrived.”
Clark described the anger of knowing Myers was killed as a storm descending on the shore.
“When the waves arrive during the middle of the storm, they are furious,” Clark said. “Slowly the storm moves back out and the fury subsides a bit. That is my life.”
A Christian, Clark has relied on her faith to help get through the past year, even while questioning how God could allow something so horrendous to happen to someone she loved so dearly.
“What happened to her was evil, not an act of God,” Clark said. “Those people were given a choice at that point in time, and they did it. That is when evil set in.”
She added: “I honestly believe that God surrounded Dystiny with angels to protect her from the pain, because I don’t believe God would have allowed that.”
The distress of not being able to protect her granddaughter weighs heavily on Clark.
She didn’t see much of her granddaughter in the months before her murder, and said Myers had fallen into a bad crowd and was making choices she knew her grandma didn’t approve of, so she stayed away.
There were nights that Clark drove the streets looking for her.
“Dystiny, like a lot of kids, got tangled up and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it,” Clark said. “She made some bad choices and paid an awful price for it. The road that Dystiny was headed down was a road of suffering, but she wasn’t given the chance to find her way back. They took that from her.”