Crime - Sacto 911

Friends testify about forbidden romance in killing of El Dorado Hills mom

In a Placerville courtroom, where jurors are hearing lurid details about the murder of an El Dorado Hills mother and the forbidden love of two teens allegedly driven to kill her, prosecutors called "God" as their witness.

Matthew Widman, 19, nicknamed "God" by friends for his extra-worldly video game skills, tapped his fingers in the witness stand last week and peered anxiously through the jet black hair, with blond tips, that covered his eyes.

He was the first of four young people – along with "Squishy" and "Graham Cracker" and Dilan Deutsch – whose cooperation is providing the thrust of the prosecution's case against Steven Paul Colver, 21, in the 2009 slaying of Joanne M. Witt of El Dorado Hills.

In addition to their testimony, the friends' text messages, Myspace posts and other communications presented in court have stitched together the torturous relationship of 14-year-old Tylar Marie Witt and her mother, and the love affair between Tylar and Colver that led to Joanne Witt's killing.

Among those weaving the narrative during trial last week was Matt Bogert, a young man nicknamed "Squishy" because he once fell asleep in high school during the jellyfish sequence in the movie "Finding Nemo."

Bogert, now 21, described imploring the then-19-year-old Colver to reconsider his relationship with a minor. "Sooner or later you're going to be talking to a police officer," Bogert said he warned.

Deutsch, 17, a summer school classmate of Tylar Witt, described taking a cigarette break with the girl on June 11 – the day before Joanne Witt's death – and dismissing her talk of wanting her mother dead.

"She said, 'If she died, I wouldn't be sad,' " said Deutsch. "I called her a liar. I said, 'You really believe you won't be sad?' She said, 'No, I would be genuinely happy, happy.' "

Four days later, Joanne Witt's body was found in the bedroom of her gated home with savage injuries, including a gaping stab wound in the neck.

In the mother's purse was an empty brandy bottle – which testimony suggests she finished after she and her daughter argued over her decision to give the girl's diary to police as evidence in a statutory rape investigation against Colver. In her bedside drawer was a book: "Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager."

Colver, a gangly young man nicknamed "Boston," faces 25 years to life if convicted of Witt's murder.

Tylar Witt, who was known to Myspace friends as "e-Bunny" and "Maniac 530," already has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case. As part of her plea deal, the girl, now 16, will be eligible for parole at age 29.

The tragic saga – set in an upscale Sacramento suburb, and cast as a darker Romeo and Juliet – has lured true-crime documentary crews from ABC's "20/20," "Dateline NBC," and CBS' "48 Hours Mystery" to the old El Dorado County courthouse in downtown Placerville.

Yet it is a personal, painful story for the young people telling it. They are among a group of friends who hung out with Colver and Witt, drinking coffee at the El Dorado Hills Town Center. Some dressed in black, Gothic clothing. Some shared drugs.

Widman – "God" – has become perhaps the prosecution's star witness. He recalled last week that he once had a romantic relationship with Colver and that they remained close after Colver fell in love with "Ty."

He testified about seeing the pair at Town Center with their hair dyed black and about a car ride to Colver's father's house during which his friend said there was something he needed to know.

He told the jury the trio were alone at the house, smoking marijuana and sharing cocaine, when to his horror, Colver produced a bloody butcher knife and said he had plunged it into the throat of Joanne Witt.

"It was so much not him," Widman said of the friend who had studied Japanese and joined the anime club at Oak Ridge High School. "It was kind of shocking. He never struck me as someone who would do something like that."

Colver's attorney, Dain Weiner, maintains it was Witt – not Colver – who killed her mother. Prosecutors contend the girl didn't participate in the stabbing.

But Widman testified that she told him "she watched her mother die."

Stunned, Widman said, he called Deutsch and Bogert, and asked them to meet him at a local Safeway store.

Bogert worked with Colver at a Rubio's restaurant, where Colver was a shift leader while attending Folsom Lake College. Bogert said the two were aficionados of Renaissance fairs and collecting "long swords, short swords" and different varieties of knives.

After Widman told his friends that Joanne Witt had been killed – prosecutors say Colver used a chef's knife stolen from Rubio's – Bogert said he called Colver from the Safeway.

"The first thing I said was, 'I want to know what you have to tell me,' " Bogert testified. "I was really angry at him."

He said he spent an hour trying to talk Colver and Tylar Witt out of a plan to kill themselves.

At a Holiday Inn in San Francisco, the pair mixed rat poison, Fruit Loops and red velvet cake into cereal bowls in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. They wrote goodbye letters that friends would receive days later.

In his note to Bogert, Colver called him "My dearest and most loyal companion Squishy."

On the witness stand last week, Bogert appeared with a neatly trimmed beard and seemed nervous about testifying against his former Rubio's colleague. When a prosecutor asked him what he called Colver – "Boston" – he looked at the defendant. "My friend," he answered simply.

Edward Graham, another companion once known as "Graham Cracker," told the jury of having to stand up for what was right.

Now 19, he described sending Myspace messages to Witt after the killing. "You sicken me beyond anything," he wrote. "You really killed her?"

"I didn't say that," Witt replied. "Now she's gone. I'm weeping. But I'm free."

She signed off: "LOL."

Graham downloaded the file for police, he said.

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