The conviction of a mother and son for the brutal kidnapping, torture, and murder of a 15-year-old Santa Maria girl in 2010 won’t change, after a state court shot down their appeals.
Justices on California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals denied the appeal of murder charges for Rhonda Wisto and Jacob York for the murder of teenager Dystiny Myers. Wisto and York were found guilty by a SLO County jury of Myers’ death in 2013.
Myer’s bound and burned body was found in a rural area of Santa Margarita in September 2010. Her death at the hands of Wisto, York, and three others: Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria; Cody Lane Miller of Fresno; and Jason Adam Greenwell, shocked the county. During the trial, SLO County prosecutors relayed the disturbing details of the teenager’s death. Myers, a runaway who’d been staying in Wisto’s Nipomo mobile home, was beaten with baseball bats and brass knuckles, kicked and punched, and injected with drugs before she was driven out to Santa Margarita, where her body was burned in a pit. Myers died of suffocation due to a glove that had been shoved down her throat, according to prosecutors.
During the trial, detectives said York’s testimony indicated Wisto ordered Myers’ murder, with Wisto saying Myers needed to be beaten and killed because the girl had been “disrespectful.”
Both Wisto and York were tried jointly after the other participants pleaded guilty to the charges. They were both convicted of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, as well as special circumstances charges of kidnapping-murder and torture-murder. They were both sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hill and Miller were also sentenced to life without parole after their guilty pleas. Greenwell, who testified against Wisto and York, was sentenced to 15 years to life.
York appealed his conviction based on the argument that he never waived his Miranda rights during interviews with police. During the trial, York’s defense filed a motion to suppress two such interviews, but the motions where denied. The appellate court upheld that decision.
In her appeal, Wisto contended that York’s statements to police should have been excluded from the trial, as they implicated her. However, the appellate court said the fact that the prosecutors offered subtitled copies of those interviews in which her name was redacted, was sufficient.
Both Wisto and York appealed the special charges of torture-murder, stating that they were simply trying to render Myers unconscious and immobile to facilitate her murder. Again, the appellate court disagreed with their characterization.
“Substantial evidence supports the requisite findings that Wisto and York intended to kill Myers, and also intended to inflict extreme physical pain and suffering on her, while she was alive, for a sadistic reason such as revenge, extortion, or persuasion,” Justice Albert Gilbert, the presiding justice for the appellate court, wrote.