A lasting loss: the killing of Dystiny Myers

Dystiny Myers' mother, Aileen Myers, right, and grandmother, Kathy Clark, share a quiet moment while visiting Dystiny's gravesite at the Santa Maria Cemetery.
Dystiny Myers' mother, Aileen Myers, right, and grandmother, Kathy Clark, share a quiet moment while visiting Dystiny's gravesite at the Santa Maria Cemetery. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

SANTA MARIA — The grass has long grown over the place where Dystiny Myers’ grave was dug two years ago, but the wound has yet to heal for her family.

The teen, brutally killed just a month after her 15th birthday, would have turned 17 on Saturday.

Her family still waits for justice, for answers, for peace, while the five people accused of killing Myers await a delayed trial.

Myers’ grandma Kathy Clark and her mother, Aileen Myers, are frequent visitors to the gray tombstone inscribed with “Not Goodbye. But Goodnight,” at Santa Maria Cemetery. Clark visits during the day and Myers at night.

The grief has taken a visible toll on both women, who shared in raising Dystiny. Myers’ hands tremble as she sits on a cold concrete bench at the cemetery near her daughter’s grave.

A tattoo scrawled on her left forearm is a copy of Dystiny’s cursive signature exactly as the teen used to write it, including a small heart to dot the “i.” “RIP” is tattooed above it.

Myers looks through an album filled with photos of Dystiny and her two brothers. The cemetery is a place of solace in a life that has become otherwise unfamiliar.

In their grief, the women see small signs of Dystiny — finding comfort in things like a heart-shaped patch of grass at the foot of her grave or a cloud that looks like a cherub silhouetted against an otherwise blue sky.

As time has passed, Clark has befriended others visiting the cemetery, offering what comfort she can. They now know her by name, as she knows them by theirs. Each year, she attends a gathering at the cemetery for families who have lost children.

Dystiny was a feisty girl with a wide, toothy smile. She wanted to be a model. She was inclined to rescue stray animals. She would sneak food from her grandma’s refrigerator to feed teens living on the streets in Santa Maria. Those same youths now come to Dystiny’s mom for help. “Those are Dystiny’s kids,” Myers said. “I just can’t turn them away.”

By eighth grade, Dystiny started to get into trouble. She was in and out of juvenile hall and later put in a group home, from which she ran away two weeks before she was found dead.

“Dystiny was taken too soon,” Clark said. “What would she look like? What would she be doing? Would she have turned her life around?”

For Clark, it seems like an eternity since she lost her granddaughter. For Myers, it feels like yesterday.

“Every night when I go to bed, I think about it,” Myers said. “Did she cry for help? Did she beg for us? How dare them for taking her — they killed us, too.”

They attend each court hearing. The trial, once scheduled to start this month, has been delayed until January. Five people are accused of killing Dystiny: Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria; Jason Adam Greenwell, Frank Jacob York and Rhonda Maye Wisto, all of Nipomo; and Cody Lane Miller of Fresno. Hill could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Dystiny’s beaten and burned body was found in Santa Margarita on Sept. 26, 2010.

Today, her mother struggles with sitting in the same room with the defendants during hearings. Often, she has to walk out.

Clark always sits in the front row. She’s frustrated that the case has been delayed past November, when a ballot initiative could repeal the death penalty in California. But she acknowledges that seeing her granddaughter’s alleged killers finally tried and sentenced will not bring peace.

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