Defendant in Dystiny Myers murder trial sentenced to life in prison

Cody Lane Miller, flanked by his lawyer, Gael Mueller, addresses the family of Dystiny Myers after pleading guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday, March 19, in San Luis Obispo.
Cody Lane Miller, flanked by his lawyer, Gael Mueller, addresses the family of Dystiny Myers after pleading guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday, March 19, in San Luis Obispo.

A day after he withdrew his guilty plea in the Dystiny Myers murder case, Cody Lane Miller entered another one Tuesday — this time for a longer prison term.

In a second day of surprise developments, Miller pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced moments later to life without the possibility of parole. Afterward his attorney said Miller thought the previous deal he’d made with the prosecution — a guilty plea in exchange for a term of 39 years and four months to life in prison — was too easy.

“He believes that he does not deserve forgiveness,” said his attorney, Gael Mueller.

Miller and four others were charged in the murder of Myers, 15, whose burned body was found in Santa Margarita on Sept. 26, 2010. Miller’s plea occurred during a break in the trial of Rhonda Maye Wisto and her son, Frank Jacob York, Nipomo residents who were also charged with the murder. Miller had been expected to testify in the case as part of his initial plea agreement.

While the new plea does not require Miller to testify, Mueller said that was not a motivating factor. Besides, she added, Miller’s memory of the event isn’t good because he suffered a concussion when other defendants attacked him with shovels after the murder.

“What he remembers is he did some awful, awful thing,” she said.

After Miller entered his plea — which included a count of conspiracy and an enhancement for kidnapping — Myers’ mother and grandmother were allowed to make statements. After reading a Bible passage, Aileen Myers, the victim’s mother, said she does not forgive Miller.

“I hope you rot in hell,” she said.

The only way she can be close to her daughter now, she said, is by lying on the ground at her gravesite.

“I want to hold her and close my eyes and pretend she’s next to me,” she said.

Miller, who asked to make a statement, turned to the family and acknowledged that he couldn’t bring Myers back.

“I really am sorry,” he said as Aileen Myers stared at him, shaking her head.

Mueller said the defendant would never have been involved in the crime were it not for his use of methamphetamine.

“He is basically a very religious person, and the drugs took him away from that,” she said of Miller, who is from Fresno.

Mueller said she’s never seen a defendant ask for a harsher sentence in her 30 years of practicing law. And Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran called Miller’s decision unusual, especially with the stakes so high.

The development left Jason Adam Greenwell as the only defendant to testify in the case.

Ty Hill, who also received life without parole, is currently in prison.

During Greenwell’s second day of testimony Tuesday, defense attorneys for Wisto and York grilled him on his initial statements to investigators, which contradicted his trial testimony.

“Do you consider yourself a murderer?” asked Wisto’s attorney, Michael Cummins.

“In a way, yes,” Greenwell said.

“Do you consider yourself to be a serial liar?”

“No, sir.”

During his interviews with detectives, Greenwell, 23, initially denied involvement in the case, then he gave a few details but no names. His story evolved, though, and soon he admitted to holding Myers’ legs while the other men beat and bound her. He implicated Wisto as a co-planner and York as a participant.

The day after his arrest, he told his mother he was trying to help investigators piece things together.

“I’m going away for a long time,” he said during a call recorded by investigators. “Just trying to make things right.”

As he began to cooperate more, investigators suggested Greenwell write a letter of apology to the Myers family, which he did.

“I was involved in the brutal, cold-hearted slaying of your daughter, Dystiny,” he wrote. “All your daughter talked about is how much she loved and missed you. ... Even as she took her last breath, she said, ‘Tell my mom I love her.’ ”

Myers had run away from home prior to the murder. It has not been revealed how she came into contact with Hill, who allegedly brought her to Wisto’s home.

Prosecutors say Wisto ordered the killing because she believed Myers was being disrespectful to her.