Steven Paul Colver was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole and his teen lover Tylar Marie Witt was sentenced to 15-years to life after pleading guilty in a reduced charge in the murder of her mother, Joanne M. Witt.
The back-to-back sentencings came after family members of Joanne Witt, stabbed to death in the bedroom of her El Dorado Hills home, decried Colver, then 19, for talking advantage of a 14-year-old girl and carrying out the savage killing of her mother
"Steven Colver not only took the life of our daughter," said Norbert Witt, Joanne Witt's father, "but he also destroyed the life of our granddaughter."
He said Colver, then 19, introduced a young girl "to heavy narcotics and sex" and then carried out the savage killing of her mother.
Moments later, with Colver out of the courtroom, he turned to Witt, now 16, and told her how she deprived the family of a loving mother, sister and daughter "who dedicated her life to you."
"You were your mother's only child," he added. "You are a murderer. You and your boyfriend planned and executed...a vicious senseless murder."
Judge Daniel B. Proud imposed mandatory sentence against Colver, who was convicted of first-degree murder and special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness. He said he had "no reservations" about putting Colver, 21, away forever given the violence he carried out.
Accepting Tylar Witt's plea agreement of second-degree murder, he imposed the 15-years to life sentence with a lecture.
"Joanne Witt loved her daughter. She was a protective and carrying mother. She tried her best. I'm sorry Ms. Witt because the person who loved you more than anyone in the world, without reservation is gone."
The sordid criminal case - which ultimately involved the premeditated murder of the mother of a disturbed, rebellious girl - concluded as the father of the victim, the grandfather of the girl, told of the searing effect the case has had on his family.
The sentencing unfolded after Colver's trial revealed the saga of two deeply troubled teens, who killed Joanne Witt shortly after midnight June 12, 2009 and fled in a suicide pact after the had mother reported Colver to authorities for statutory rape over his relationship with Tylar.
El Dorado County prosecutors said Colver brutally stabbed Joanne Witt more than 20 times while she was sleeping in her El Dorado Hills home, ultimately killing her with a gaping cut to her neck.
A jury convicted Colver of first-degree murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait on June 15. Tylar Witt pleaded guilty to her role in the killing in September 2010.
Tylar Witt testified during trial that the teens had ascended the stairs to commit the killing together, Colver with a chef's knife from his restaurant job and she with kitchen knife from the house. But after Colver entered the bedroom and practiced slashing motions, she said she collapsed outside the door and, "I put my hands on my ear, closed my eyes and hummed," as her mother was murdered.
The girl testified that she was possessed by three spirits, "a demon from hell" named Toby, "Alex," her inner angel and Tylar herself, a troubled 14-year-old girl. Her calm demeanor in describing the plot was assailed by Colver's lawyer, Dain Weiner, who argued that the girl - not his client - killed Joanne Witt.
"Throughout this trial, you haven't shed a single tear," Weiner challenged the girl during her testimony.
"I have trouble crying in front of people," she answered.
When he asked her if she was acting, she answered, "No, I feel full emotion." She said she regretted her mother's death but, "I think I have actually only been able to cry, like bawling, about three or four times."
In his testimony, Colver claimed the girl called him to the house and greeted him with a bloody knife saying, "I finally did it. My mom is finally gone forever."
Under cross-examination, with a prosecutor introducing a 2007 journal entry in which Colver suggested a fascination with watching someone bleed to death, Colver described himself as suicidal, often self-loathing, but said he would never kill anyone.
Yet after the teens fled to San Francisco, where they attempted suicide by ingesting Fruit Loops and Red Velvet Cake laced with rat poison, their own writings pointed to their roles in the Joanne Witt's murder.
Colver wrote in a journal that he was so devoted to Tylar that he would "travel through the pits of hell" and "take the life of another" to have her.
"It is a true test when facing the test of taking the life of another to be with the one you love," he said.
After Joanne Witt's body was found, he texted an apology to a companion, declaring, "Our sin has reached the news."
Key testimony in the trial came from friends such as Matthew Widman, a gangly teen nicknamed "God," who testified that Colver showed him a bloody knife and described plunging it into Joanne Witt. Another friend, Matthew Bogert, a young man nicknamed "Squishy," told of calling Colver as the teens fled to San Francisco and hearing Colver confess that "he killed his girlfriend's mom, that her body is in her bedroom."
Unaware Colver was already romantically involved with her daughter, Joanne Witt had rented him a $500-month room in her house after the teens led her to believe he was gay and a platonic "big brother" figure to Tylar. The mother kicked him out after she found her daughter naked in a utility closet in the room, telling him she wouldn't file statutory rape charges against him as long as he stopped seeing her daughter.
That was apparently impossible. While high on Esctasy and No Doze, Colver had written in the girl's journal, "Tylar Goddess Marie Witt, I love you more than you can possible imagine. I would gladly face scorn...or eternal damnation if it meant I could have you in my life."
A friend of Colver's, Courtney Epperson, 22, who let him stay at her apartment after he left Joanne Witt's house, said Tylar called constantly and "just wouldn't let them separate, even for a day."
Joanne Witt later gave El Dorado authorities her daughter's diary, detailing a sexual relationship with Colver.
At their San Francisco hotel, following their failed attempt to poison themselves, authorities found a suicide note from Tylar that read, "You, mother, made me a whore, to the man I love."
A story she wrote, set in medieval times, later reached friends in the mail. It described young lovers betrayed to authorities by an oppressive mother.
"That's when their hope vanished," she wrote, "and when this man, this 19-year-old man became a killer." She told of the girl sneaking the boyfriend into her house, where he stabbed the mother "in her sleep, killing her and freeing themselves."
The real life-lovers are now being sent away to prison. Tylar's could be eligible to be freed on parole at 29. Colver's freedom is over.
Photo captions: Top - Steven Colver steps out of the elevator on the way to his sentencing at the El Dorado County Superior court in Placerville on Friday, August 12, 2011. Bottom - Tylar Witt is escorted out of the courtroom after being sentenced at the El Dorado County Superior court in Placerville on Friday, August 12, 2011. Photos by Randall Benton.