As four men allegedly hog-tied and brutally beat 15-year-old Dystiny Myers, she gave her attackers a heartbreaking message, according to one of her alleged killers:
“She said to tell her mom she loved her,” Jason Adam Greenwell testified Monday.
As Greenwell told a Superior Court jury what might have been Myers’ final words, the victim’s mother — who had been sitting in the packed audience — quickly rushed out of the San Luis Obispo courtroom, crying.
The emotional moment came as Greenwell — one of the five accused of murdering Myers — testified against Frank Jacob York and his mother, Rhonda Maye Wisto, both of Nipomo.
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Greenwell’s testimony — agreed to in exchange for a second-degree murder conviction and a 15-years-to-life sentence — became more important to the prosecution after co-defendant Cody Lane Miller of Fresno reneged on his plea deal moments earlier.
Miller, who had agreed to testify in exchange for a sentence of 39 years and four months to life in prison, briefly took the stand outside the jury’s presence and announced that he planned to plead the Fifth Amendment, exercising his right not to incriminate himself. As a result, the deal was made void, and a date for a separate trial will be set for his case.
Neither Miller nor his attorney, Gael Mueller, offered a reason for his decision. During the trial, however, several witnesses have been reluctant to testify, fearing retaliation by people close to Wisto and York. Prosecutors have said the defendants have ties to white supremacist gangs.
Without Miller, Greenwell becomes the prosecution’s lone eyewitness implicating Wisto as the one who planned the Sept. 26, 2010, attack and her son as a participant. Ty Hill, of Santa Maria and another defendant, is not expected to testify after receiving a life prison term without the possibility of parole.
The burned body of Myers was found by firefighters responding to a call of a blaze near Santa Margarita.
While Greenwell said Wisto helped Hill plan the murder, Wisto’s attorney, Michael Cummins, noted inconsistencies in Greenwell’s various statements to police, saying Greenwell initially didn’t implicate Wisto.
Cummins suggested Greenwell changed his story in order to strike a deal with the prosecution. Greenwell, also of Nipomo, said he initially wanted to protect Wisto because he’d stayed at her home.
“It came to the point where I started telling the truth,” Greenwell said.
Prior to the murder, Greenwell said, he overheard Wisto and Hill plan the crime.
“I heard Ty ask Rhonda to get something that burns real hot, real fast,” he said.
Greenwell and other witnesses have said that Wisto was angry at Myers for disrespecting her.
Hill made a list of things needed to dispose of a body, Greenwell said, and Wisto began gathering the items on the list.
As the male defendants were talking near Wisto’s garage in Nipomo, Greenwell said, the following occurred:
Myers exited the house and walked toward them with a bag of clothes.
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” she said. “I’m leaving.”
After the teenage runaway returned to the house, the men followed. Myers went into York’s bedroom — where she’d been staying — and Hill put the plan in motion.
“Ty told everybody to get dark clothes on and to put on rubber gloves,” Greenwell said.
Greenwell went into Wisto’s room to get a dark shirt and encountered Wisto and York.
”Rhonda was in there telling him — instructing him — how to get dressed,” he said. “Jacob also said to his mom, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ And she said, ‘Sometimes things just have to happen.’”
When he exited Wisto’s room, Greenwell said, Hill told the others to enter York’s room, where Myers was sitting on a mattress, her wrists having been taped by Hill. Hill later told Greenwell he’d drugged Myers in the room.
“Dystiny was clearly out of it,” he said.
A pathologist previously testified that Myers had a toxic level of methamphetamine in her system.
As Miller began binding Myers with duct tape and rope, Greenwell said, Hill and York punched her. Hill also hit Myers with a baseball bat before handing it to York.
“Ty told me to hold Dystiny down while Jacob hit her legs with a baseball bat,” he said.
York then hit Myers on the shins several times, he said, and kicked and stomped her.
In his interviews with police, York said he only kicked Myers a couple of times in the legs.
After the beating, Hill placed Myers in a duffel bag, which Greenwell carried to Wisto’s truck. Wisto had placed a 55-gallon drum and a bag of flammable fluids near the truck, he said.
“She told Ty, Jacob and I to make sure we had nothing in our pockets, and she gave Ty a walkie talkie,” Greenwell said.
After the group drove to Santa Margarita, Miller began to carry Myers, whose head poked out of the bag, to a remote location.
“She looked dead, basically,” Greenwell said.