Tylar Marie Witt, who in two days of court testimony vividly described her mother's drinking and their violent arguments, said one activity often brought mother and daughter together: watching crime scene investigation shows on TV.
And so, as Joanne M. Witt lay savagely stabbed to death in her bedroom on June 12, 2009, her then-14-year-old daughter had a sense of what to do, Tylar Witt testified Thursday in a Placerville courtroom.
Now 16, Witt described closing the windows and blinds of her mother's bedroom, turning on the air conditioning and warning her then-19-year-old boyfriend, Steven Paul Colver, not to leave bloody fingerprints. She also said she told him a day after the killing to stash the murder weapon in a neighborhood drain.
"All of these things are things you had learned watching 'CSI' and other crime shows?" defense attorney Dain Weiner asked.
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"Yeah," she said, adding later: "It was just kind of an idea that popped up after it was over. I was thinking about what we should do."
In her second and final day of testimony in Colver's murder trial, the teenager sparred pointedly with her former lover's defense lawyer.
Weiner grilled her about whether she had orchestrated events immediately after her mother's murder. Witt described Colver shielding her from the bloody scene by holding up a SpongeBob SquarePants blanket as she moved around the bed where her mother lay dead. She said he later laid it over her mother's body.
Witt said she locked the windows, pulled the blinds and turned on the air conditioning. She said she wanted the system running so the noise would leave the impression that her mother was home – and alive.
As he had during questioning Wednesday, Weiner homed in on Tylar Witt's love of the crime drama "CSI." On Wednesday, he had asked whether the show had taught her "enough to know how to stage a crime scene."
"On TV, yes," she answered.
Prosecutors allege that Colver alone stabbed Joanne Witt. But Weiner has argued that it was Witt – and not his client – who killed her mother after Joanne Witt gave authorities her daughter's lurid diary as part of a statutory rape complaint against Colver.
On Thursday, Witt detailed how she secured the house after the killing, locking the doors and crawling out through the dog door, while Colver exited through the garage.
She described comforting Colver after the killing, saying "he was in pretty bad shock." She said she thought that he was crying and that she hugged him, while telling him not to touch anything with blood on his hands.
She described fleeing to the nearby home of Colver's father, where she said her boyfriend burned his bloody clothes in the fireplace. She said that she noticed a "tear drop" of blood near his eyes and that she didn't want him to wash it away.
"When I saw it on his face, the first thing I thought was how ironic it was," Witt said, describing how murderers in prison sometimes have tear drops tattooed beneath their eyes. "I thought it was put there for a reason."
That prompted Weiner to challenge her account, declaring, "It was put there as part of your plan to frame Steven Colver for the murder of your mother."
"No," she answered.
"But he literally had to ask your permission to clean it," Weiner said.
"Yeah," she said.
Witt testified that, after Colver showed the bloody knife to a friend and told him of the killing a day later, she instructed Colver to ditch the weapon in a drain as they were driving away, fleeing to San Francisco on a suicide pact.
"That kind of thing, you don't want in the car – because it's evidence if you get pulled over," she said.
Authorities never found the knife.
Colver, now 21, faces 25 years to life if convicted of first-degree murder in Joanne Witt's killing. He could be denied parole if the jury finds that he was lying in wait or that the mother was murdered as a potential witness in the statutory rape case.
Witt, who prosecutors say called Colver to the house to carry out the killing, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal that could free her from prison when she turns 29.
In the girl's opening testimony Wednesday, she told of being occupied by three "souls" – her own personality, an angel named "Alex" and a "demon from hell" named "Toby," who often took over when emotions overwhelmed her.
Near the close of cross-examination Thursday, Weiner asked Tylar if she could summon Toby "so we can ask her a couple of questions."
Prosecutor Lisette Suder erupted, "Objection!"
Judge Daniel B. Proud ruled that the inquiry was inappropriate.
The prosecution resumes its case on Tuesday.