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Colver murder trial delves into strained family dynamic

By May 23, 2011

Life inside of Joanne Witt’s El Dorado Hills house might have appeared normal to outside observers, but testimony from the first week of Steven “Boston” Colver’s murder trial revealed Witt’s daughter felt her relationship with her mother was far from idyllic.

Tylar Witt, 16, pleaded guilty to murdering Joanne Witt in September 2010 as part of a plea agreement with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

Her exact role in the June 2009 killing, though, remains disputed.

Prosecutors say Witt and Colver became frustrated with Joanne Witt’s interference in the couple’s “forbidden love affair” and plotted to kill the 47-year-old El Dorado Hills woman.

But moments before the stabbing, Tylar Witt lost her nerve and left the task to her then-19-year-old lover, according to deputy district attorney Lisette Suder.

Dain Weiner, Colver’s defense attorney, told jurors that his client played no role in Joanne Witt’s death.

During opening statements, Weiner said he would expose Tylar Witt as a manipulative, lying teen unwilling to live by her mother’s rules. And that desire to be free, according to Weiner, led Witt to stab her mother at least 20 times while she slept in her bed.

Norb Witt, Tylar’s grandfather, said his daughter was an intelligent, hard-working single mother who was committed to taking care of her daughter.

“Joanne wanted to do the best she could for Tylar,” he said.

Norb Witt said he knew the two had their share of arguments and difficulties — Tylar was taken away from her mother at the age of 5 after the child was slapped across the face — but told jurors his granddaughter’s outbursts appeared more typical of teenage angst.

Vincent Catapano, a friend and co-worker of Joanne Witt, said the mother would often cancel social plans and occasionally missed work to deal with her daughter’s latest issues.

Catapano recalled seeing Joanne Witt arrive at work one morning with a gash on her face, which Witt chalked up to a “little incident” from the previous night.

At the time of Joanne Witt’s murder, a book titled “Parenting Your Out-Of-Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love” was found in her bedside nightstand.

Catapano also testified about witnessing mood changes in Tylar Witt during dinners at the Witt house, saying she would begin “yelling, raising her voice.”

One at least two different occasions, Tylar became so angry with her mother that she left the house, Catapano said.

Friends of both Colver and Tylar, though, said the girl’s feelings toward her mother bordered on hate.

Gram Ewing, a 19-year-old friend of Colver’s, testified about receiving a call from Tylar asking for arsenic and then joking about using it to poison Joanne Witt.

“I just knew she did not like her mother,” Ewing said.

Dilan Deutsch, 17, knew Tylar for several years and said the girl made no secret about being “genuinely happy” at the thought of her mother dying.

Even journal entries penned by the girl express her apparent infatuation with her mother’s death.

One entry describes a detailed death scenario during which Joanne Witt is killed in an auto accident.

“I just wish she would die,” it states.

In another entry, Tylar claims she is being abused by her mother and says her nickname for her family is “DM,” short for “Devil’s Mafia.”

Former El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy Tim Anglin told jurors that Tylar Witt, while being returned home by deputies after running away in May 2009, said she felt “unsafe” living with her mother because of Joanne Witt’s alleged drug and alcohol abuse.

The week’s descriptions of Tylar Witt were in sharp contrast with those of Colver, now 21.

Prosecutors made much of what, at the time, was Colver’s favored attire: all black clothing accessorized with metal chains and studs, described by one witness as “sick.”

But witnesses also said the defendant appeared to be respectful and pleasant enough, even in passing.

The trial will resume Wednesday morning in Placerville’s Main Street courthouse.

If convicted, Colver faces 25 years to life in prison.

[email protected]

Jim Ratajczak


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