A month before his death-penalty trial was set to begin, a 30-year-old man accused in the brutal slaying of a Santa Maria teen entered a surprise guilty plea Wednesday.
In doing so, Ty Michael Hill of Santa Maria agreed to a life prison term without the possibility of parole..
Hill, one of five defendants charged with killing Dystiny Myers, 15, in September of 2010, pleaded guilty in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
According to the terms of the plea, he will not be allowed to appeal his case.
A rarity for high-profile cases, Hill also was formally sentenced on the same day he entered his plea.
During the emotional hearing, members of Myers’ family told the court how the murder has affected them.
Myers’ partially burned body was found by firefighters in Santa Margarita.
The teen’s mother, Aileen Myers, said she and her two sons have been constantly reminded of Dystiny’s absence ever since.
“We just wait and wait and wait, and she doesn’t come home,” she said. “And she’s never gonna come home.”
With her eyes closed, Aileen Myers struggled to keep her composure as she spoke off the cuff at a podium. Meanwhile, members of Hill’s family, sitting on one side of the courtroom, cried at the same time as members of Myers’ family, seated on the other side of the room.
“Every day for me is like the first day I was told,” Aileen Myers said.
Before she spoke, Aileen Myers sat next to her two sons, who struggled to hold back tears.
Mary Rogers, an aunt, said Dystiny Myers and her younger brother, Joshua, were best friends.
“It was like watching a comedy show, they were that much alike,” she said.
Myers’ grandmother, who – along with Aileen Myers – has attended most of the case’s many hearings, held an enlarged photo of Myers as she spoke.
“I remember a child who used to run and sing and play,” said the grandmother, Kathy Clark.
Because of the murder, she said, she’s missed Myers going to prom, graduating from high school and having children. But, she said, her spiritual beliefs assure her that she’ll see her granddaughter again.
“I know that Dystiny’s up there right now, and Dystiny’s at peace with herself,” she said.
During the hearing, Hill cried, wiping his eyes with tissues several times. But he did not look at Myers’ family as they spoke, and he did not offer any statement.
Still, two members of the victim’s family addressed him.
“I just want Mr. Hill to know that I do forgive him,” Clark said.
Myers’ mother, however, took a different stance.
“All I can say is I’m sorry for you, Mr. Hill,” she said. “And I cannot forgive you.”
Hill’s plea simplifies what was going to be a complicated trial, with separate juries for Hill – the only defendant facing the death penalty – and the other defendants.
One defendant, Jason Adam Greenwell, has already agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his court testimony. That leaves three other defendants, Cody Lane Miller, Rhonda Maye Wisto, and her son, Frank Jacob York.
Their trial is still set to begin next month.
According to past testimony, Wisto ordered the killing, saying Myers had been disrespectful.