More than two years after Joanne Witt was discovered brutally murdered in her home, star-crossed lovers Steven “Boston” Colver and Tylar Marie Witt were sentenced Friday afternoon for killing the El Dorado Hills single mom.
Before a packed courtroom, El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud sentenced Colver, 21, to life in prison without parole while Tylar, 16, was sentenced to 15 years to life.
In June Colver was convicted of stabbing Joanne Witt, the mother of his then-girlfriend Tylar, 20 times while she slept on the evening of June 11, 2009.
Tylar, who was 14 at the time of the killing, last year struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded to her mother’s first-degree slaying. In exchange for her testimony, the teen was given the opportunity to have her first-degree conviction reduced to a second-degree count, which carries a 15 years to life sentence.
During the trial, the girl said the plea deal was not what inspired her to testify against her former lover. Rather, Tylar said she found religion during her incarceration and was called to tell the truth as a result.
Prosecutors said the murder stemmed from Joanne Witt’s disapproval of the relationship her daughter and Colver shared. The young couple was discovered by her mother, half-naked, in Colver’s room. At the time, Colver had tricked Joanne Witt into thinking he was Tylar’s gay, platonic friend and was renting a room in her house.
Joanne was killed after the young lovers learned she had filed a statutory rape complaint against Colver with El Dorado County sheriff’s detectives.
Before Friday’s sentencing, Judge Daniel B. Proud allowed several of Joanne Witt’s relatives and friends to deliver victim impact statements.
Norb Witt, Joanne Witt’s father, told the court that his daughter’s death left a gaping hole in his life.
“Our daughter Joanne is gone and we loved her very much,” he said.
Norb described his daughter as a gourmet chef who was a devoted friend and mother.
“She never had a bad word to say about anybody,” he said.
Victims had sharp words for Colver, who sat next to attorney Dain Weiner.
Norb Witt blamed Colver for turning Tylar into a sex addict, drug user and murderer.
“Steven Colver not only took the life of our daughter but also our granddaughter,” he said.
Michael Witt, one of Joanne’s brothers, said he hoped Colver suffered a “slow and painful death” in prison.
Steven Witt shared his brother’s sentiments.
“I hope he has good luck with his new friends in prison and I hope they embrace him warmly,” he said.
Even deputy district attorney Lisette Suder minced no words when it came to Colver.
“Mr. Colver took the life of a person who took him in,” she said, adding that Colver’s apparent lack of remorse was “enraging.”
Before sentencing Colver to life in prison, Proud reprimanded Colver for the especially brutal way Joanne Witt was killed.
“No person deserves to die in the manner that took place,” he said.
After Colver was remanded into the custody of the state, Tylar was allowed to withdraw her initial guilty plea in order to enter a second-degree murder plea.
Before she was sentenced, though, Mary Witt, Joanne’s sister, was called to testify about the changes she has witnessed in her niece since her arrest.
Free of “outside stimulus,” Mary Witt told the court that Tylar was a much more mature, responsible young woman than she was two years ago.
But like Colver, Tylar was also subjected to scathing remarks from her family members.
“You never appreciated what your mother did for you,” said Norb Witt. “You were her whole world. You were your mother’s only child. You were her murderer.”
Steve Witt called his niece a “selfish, deceptive, manipulative little girl.”
Tyalr’s attorney Mark Ralphs called his client’s actions “deplorable” and said they stemmed from “some fantasy… to commit suicide with her lover.”
Throughout the trial Tylar was criticized for showing little emotion over her mother’s death.
On Friday Ralphs told the court that Tylar had been prescribed “mood-stabilizing drugs” and had been taking them for two years.
“Those really prevent her from being able to cry,” he said.
But the girl did feel genuine remorse over Joanne Witt’s murder, according to Ralphs, who recalled a moment during a previous hearing when Tylar passed him a note reading: “I miss you, mommy.”
But the judge wondered aloud whether the girl would ever fully accept what she had done and noted that he saw no evidence of remorse on her part.
Friday’s sentencing came two months after jurors convicted Colver of Witt’s first-degree murder. The verdict came less than 24 hours after jurors began their deliberations.
The trial, which began in mid-May, featured testimony from both Colver and Tylar.
Both defendants described a friendship that quickly blossomed into an intense, forbidden love over a span of several months.
“I trusted him more than I trusted anyone,” Tylar told jurors. “And I loved him more than anybody or anything. If he told me to jump off a bridge and I asked him why and he said, ‘Just trust me,’ I would have done it.”
But stories changed when attorneys questioned the youths on the 2009 murder.
Colver testified that Tylar plotted and carried out her mother’s execution in an attempt to protect the relationship the two kept secret from the world.
Colver claimed that the two planned on running off to San Francisco before killing themselves and that when he arrived at the Witt home on the evening of June 11, 2009, to pick up Tylar, Joanne Witt was already dead.
“(Tylar) was holding a kitchen knife in her right hand and there was a red stain on her right pant leg,” he testified.
Moments later the teen, according to Colver, confessed to killing her mother.
“She said, ‘Boston, I did it. I finally did it. My mom is gone forever,’” he testified.
Tylar, on the other hand, told jurors that while she and Colver intended to kill themselves on their three-month and three-week anniversary as a couple they knew Joanne Witt’s presence could derail their plans.
“We had to make sure my mother didn’t tell the police,” the teen testified.
Tylar claimed that on the evening of June 11, 2009, she and Colver, armed with knives, crept up to her mother’s room while the woman slept.
But at the last second, Tylar realized she couldn’t carry out the killing and waited outside of the bedroom.
“I put my hands on my ears, closed my eyes and hummed,” she testified.
Tylar told jurors that Colver emerged from the bedroom with a single “teardrop” of blood under his eye.
“I got up, I hugged him, I told him everything was going to be OK,” said Tylar.
Tylar’s testimony took an unusual turn when the girl described the two supernatural beings living inside of her: A demon named “Toby” and an angel named “Alex.”
“Three souls crowded in one body,” she joked.
Neither Tylar nor Colver disputed what happened next: The two fled to San Francisco, where they committed a failed suicide attempt by eating breakfast cereal and red velvet cake laced with rat poison.
The teens then fled to San Bruno, where they were arrested by local police on June 17, 2009.
The trial also featured testimony from famed attorney Robert D. Blasier, who helped successfully defend O.J. Simpson in the star athlete’s murder trial. Blasier was brought in to refute DNA evidence presented by prosecutors.
Ultimately, neither Blasier nor any defense witness was able to save Colver from a guilty verdict.
After Friday’s hearing, Jan Colver, the defendant’s mother, told reporters the family would stand behind her son and an appeal would be filed.
The court recommended Colver serve his sentence at Mule Creek so relatives would have an easier time visiting.
But Norb Witt presented a much different idea of punishment, saying, “May he rot in the hell he wrote about so often in his journal.”