Crime - Sacto 911

Girl tells how lover's knife frenzy killed mom

It was a stunning psychological twist to an already lurid trial.

Tylar Marie Witt, testifying Wednesday against her former teen lover in the murder of her mother, said she was occupied by three personalities as she endured a tortured relationship with mother, Joanne M. Witt, and later plotted her killing.

She said there was Tylar herself, then an unsettled 14-year-old girl, and "Alex," her inner angel, and "Toby," a demon from hell who lurked "inside me."

"Three souls crowded in one body," Witt testified.

Composed and articulate, Witt testified in detail about her emotional condition and about the night she summoned Steven Paul Colver, then 19, to her gated El Dorado Hills home to kill her mother as she slept.

She faced Colver from the witness stand in a Placerville courtroom and described him stabbing her mother to death on June 12, 2009, as Tylar hovered just outside the door, so scared she said, "I put my hands on my ears, closed my eyes and hummed."

The riveting, daylong testimony by Witt, now 16, stoked both prosecution and defense theories of the murder of Joanne Witt, 47, who was attacked after she had handed over her daughter's diary to police as part of a statutory rape complaint against Colver.

Prosecutor Lisette Suder, who called Tylar Witt to the stand, contends Colver stabbed Joanne Witt at least 20 times and killed her with a gaping slash to the neck.

Defense attorney Dain Weiner, who pointedly cross-examined Witt about her psychological state and her hatred of her mother, says it was the girl – not Colver – who committed the murder.

In barbed questioning, Weiner suggested Joanne Witt was killed during a psychological "blackout" by the girl when her "demon" personality, "Toby," took over.

"The truth is it was you who killed your mother," Weiner declared.

"No," the girl answered.

Colver, now 21, faces 25 years to life if convicted of first-degree murder. Witt has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal that could make her eligible for parole at age 29.

The girl, who once said she would kill herself rather than betray her boyfriend, provided searing testimony for the prosecution about Colver emerging from her mother's bedroom with blood on his pants and face.

Colver looked on in his black suit as Witt, in a purple juvenile hall sweatshirt, gave her account of the tumultuous events that led the knife-wielding teens up the staircase to her mother's room shortly after midnight.

She testified about her fury over her mother giving police the diary that detailed her sexual relationship with Colver. She said she told Colver hours before her mother's death that they needed to act on a "Romeo and Juliet" suicide pact. She said they also decided that Joanne Witt must die.

But she described collapsing outside her mother's bedroom as Colver went in to do the killing with a butcher knife from his restaurant job. "A knife in my hand, I turned to go into the room. I stood up and I was in the doorway. I couldn't do it. I couldn't go inside," she said.

She testified she heard her mother cry out for Colver to stop during the stabbing. She said Colver then emerged with a pant leg soaked in blood and with a "tear drop" of blood on his face.

"He was holding the knife. He was just standing there at the stairs," she said. "I told him everything was going to be OK."

A day before the killing, Witt said, she erupted in anger and panic when Joanne Witt told her she had given El Dorado County sheriff's detectives her diary.

She said it meant the end of her relationship with Colver, a young man who provided emotional support – helping her three personas cooperate so Toby "couldn't take over anymore" – as they made love and used drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy.

"I was in shock and then I went into a full-blown panic attack, hyperventilating, screaming, shaking," she said. "Everything was in that diary. There was no way he was going to get out of the charges."

She told of a hasty meeting at her home with Colver, nicknamed "Boston," while her mother was at work.

She said they decided they would go to San Francisco to kill themselves. "We had talked about the Romeo and Juliet scenario," Witt said. "He had said it would only be the last resort. I said it was the last resort."

Witt said the pair planned to flee on a Friday but feared they would be found before taking their lives if Joanne Witt were alive to call police about her disappearance.

"The only person who would notice me gone and call police and point a finger at Boston would be my mother," Witt testified.

Witt described a love-hate relationship with her mother that frequently led to violence – and then apologies by her mother afterward for striking her. She also admitted she threatened more than once to stab her mother with a pocketknife and that she once called police, saying she had hit her mother, to get out of the home.

Under questioning from Weiner, Tylar Witt said "Toby" often took over when emotions overwhelmed her.

"When I was stressed out, Toby would come out and she would deal with whatever was stressing me out," Witt said.

That prompted Weiner to ask whether Witt – and her three personas – had a fatalistic belief they couldn't survive without Colver.

"Toby knew if she lost Steven (Colver), she would die," Weiner began.

The girl cut him short. "We all would," she answered.

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