Forbidden Love: Steven Colver and Tylar Witt
Tylar Cuts a Deal
Once Widman turned over the package from Colver and Witt along with his account of the confession, the evidence against the couple was pretty clear-cut. Among the writings, investigators found was a story written by Tylar entitled "The Killer and his Raven" in which a young man and his beloved were stymied by the teen girl's mother. The story's climax is the couple's murder of the meddling mom: "at round one in the morning the girl snuck the boy into her house. He stabbed her in her sleep, killing her and freeing themselves." A final letter from Colver to his friends apologized for the "sinful escape" and admitted "Our souls are tainted ... We shall be awaiting our fate in the afterworld."
After an El Dorado County court ruled that Tylar Witt would stand trial as an adult, not a juvenile, she cut a deal with prosecutors. Tylar would plead guilty to first-degree murder and agree to testify against Steven Colver. If prosecutors believed her testimony was truthful, her charge would be reduced to second-degree murder. That reduction in charge would mean the difference between parole eligibility in 15 rather than 25 years.
Now prosecutors were left with one focus: the conviction of Steven Colver. With the evidence and testimony of a conspirator, it might not have looked like a difficult job. But nothing in court is ever easy, and there were unexpected twists to come.
On May 17, 2011, in the old El Dorado County Courthouse in Placerville, Calif., a packed courtroom gathered for opening statements. Prosecutor Lisette Suder told the jury they would hear a case about a "19-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl and their love affair" that led to the "violent almost to the point of sadistic murder of her mother." All of the evidence and admissions pointed to Steven Colver as the person who "violently and maliciously stabbed" Joanne Witt to get rid of the key witness in the statutory rape case against him.
Colver's defense attorney Dain Weiner painted an entirely different version of the murder in his opening statement. In the defense's telling, Tylar was the temptress and mastermind behind the death of her mother. When Colver arrived at the Witt home that night, Weiner said, Tylar held a knife dripping with blood and admitted to Colver that she had killed Joanne. Colver then covered up the body with a blanket and later told their friends that he had done the stabbing in order to protect Tylar. Moreover, Tylar's diary betrayed the murderous feelings she had for her mother, and the jury would hear several of the girl's friends recount Tylar saying she wanted her mother dead. Weiner pointed out that the couple's intention was a joint suicide, so killing Joanne Witt was unnecessary.