Ty Michael Hill tricked others into thinking Rhonda Maye Wisto masterminded the murder of Dystiny Myers, a defense attorney said Friday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
“My theory is that he’s a profoundly deceptive person,” said Michael Cummins, Wisto’s attorney, during a hearing outside the jury’s presence.
Wisto and her son, Frank Jacob York, are both on trial for the murder of Myers, a 15-year-old Santa Maria girl, who was allegedly attacked at Wisto’s Nipomo home in September 2010. Hill has already pleaded guilty to murder in the case, as has Cody Lane Miller. A fifth defendant, Jason Adam Greenwell, has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for testimony.
Prosecutors Tim Covello and Sheryl Walcott say Wisto thought Myers was disrespectful and knew too much about their illegal activities, so she ordered the murder. Her son, York, they allege, participated in the killing.
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After Myers was beaten and bound in Wisto’s home, witnesses have said, she was driven to Parkhill Road in Santa Margarita, where her body was dumped in a pit and burned.
While the jury was on a break Friday, Cummins, a former Stanislaus County judge, said Hill led other defendants to believe that Wisto called the shots, when in fact it was Hill who did so.
“This is a manipulative person with information and misinformation,” Cummins said.
To prove that Hill is deceptive, Cummins said he wants to call to the stand a law enforcement officer who is familiar with Hill’s deception. But, Covello argued, that would constitute a character witness, which would be more appropriate for a death-penalty trial. The prosecution had initially pursued a death sentence for Hill, but decided instead to seek a life prison term without parole.
No ruling has been made on the prospective witness.
Meanwhile, Miller and Greenwell are expected to testify beginning Monday. Hill is not expected to testify.
Comments from York and Wisto have entered the trial through their letters and York’s first of two interviews with sheriff’s investigators.
During York’s initial interview, he said he’d been with his girlfriend before Myers was attacked. And when he came home, he found the others tying her up in his bedroom.
“I was in shock,” he said. “Didn’t know what to do.”
York said he only kicked Myers twice in the legs to keep her quiet. Fingerprint and DNA experts have both determined that York handled a baseball bat that prosecutors say was used in the attack.
When the four males dumped Myers’ body in Santa Margarita, York said, Hill ordered an attack on Miller, saying he planned to decapitate him.
“Mike didn’t like Cody,” York told detectives.
York said he was afraid to stand up to Hill, so he usually did as he was told.
“It’s just the way he looks at me and everything that scares me,” he said.
As Miller was digging a hole for Myers’ body, York said, Hill and York hit him with shovels. After getting knocked out, he jumped up and ran. York said he chased him, but Miller escaped.
Eventually, Miller — fearing for his own life — told firefighters and sheriff’s deputies that a murder had occurred.
The trial will resume Monday with a second interview between York and detectives.