Investigation Discovery’s ‘People Magazine Investigates: Star-Crossed Killers’ chronicles the brutal murder of 47-year-old single mother Joanne Witt in her El Dorado Hills, California, residence in early June 2009. While the police began their probe, they quickly realized the mother had been betrayed by the people she blindly trusted. If you’re curious to learn how the authorities solved the case and the killers’ identities and current whereabouts, we’ve you covered. Let’s begin then, shall we?
How Did Joanne Witt Die?
Joanne M. Witt was born to Norb and Judy Witt in Santa Clara County, California, on January 25, 1962. Norb described his daughter as a gourmet chef who was a devoted friend and mother. He added, “She never had a bad word to say about anybody. We loved her very much.” In June 2009, the single mother worked as an engineer for El Dorado County and lived with her teenage daughter in El Dorado Hills, California. On June 15, 2009, Joanne’s supervisor called the Witt couple to report their daughter had not come to work unannounced for two days.
According to the show, Joanne had not come to work on June 12 and could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. When she failed to show up on June 15 as well, her supervisor contacted her parents and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. Judi Witt recalled, “And he says, ‘Well–she didn’t show up for work on Friday, and she didn’t show up today. And we’re worried that something might be wrong.'” Norb stated they were instantly worried and explained, “As her boss said, she’s never missed work without calling.”
The parents lived two miles from their daughter’s residence and immediately drove to check on her. Norb recounted, “I got in the car and got over there so fast. I think I was in a daze by the time I got there. … there were two sheriff’s cars … and two deputies walking around the house.” He unlocked the house for the deputies, and they went inside Joanne’s body in her bed in her upstairs bedroom. She, 47, had 20 stab wounds on her face, neck, and arms. The killers had cranked up the air-conditioning to hinder the corpse’s decomposition.
Who Killed Joanne Witt?
El Dorado County’s erstwhile Assistant District Attorney Lisette Suder recalled, “… it was a very, very, very … gruesome scene. There was a wound that almost decapitated her. Very violent!” The investigators discovered Joanne’s teenage daughter, Tylar Witt, then 14, was nowhere to be found. The Witts were concerned about their granddaughter, with Judi adding, “.. we didn’t know if Tylar had been kidnapped or …” However, the police interviewed Joanne’s employers and colleagues to learn that Tylar was not a victim.
Reports stated a furious Joanne had complained to authorities about her underage daughter’s relationship with Steven “Boston” Colver weeks before her murder. They crossed paths at a local coffee shop shortly after Tylar began her ninth-grade year while Steven had already embarked on his college journey. Norb stated it didn’t take long before Steven’s influence over Tylar took a negative turn. He added, “We knew that a lot of drugs were involved. … They were into marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine. What does that do to someone’s mind?”
Just a few weeks after their initial encounter, the teens persuaded Joanne to allow Steven to rent a room within their household. To her, it seemed the two were close friends, and she believed Steven to be homosexual. She assured her skeptical friends and family members that Steven’s presence would benefit Tylar academically and assist with the mortgage payments. However, she soon understood her mistake when she returned home from work within a month to find the teens in “a compromising position.”
A furious Joanne immediately asked for the help of her two male co-workers in throwing Steven out of the house. One of her friends, Vinnie Catapano, stated, “She said she was gonna kick Steven out and she didn’t want to be there alone.” Believing Steven had committed a crime — statutory rape — by having sex with her minor daughter, she warned him he would call the police if he didn’t immediately stop seeing Tylar. However, Steven was not deterred, and Norb claimed he secretly entered the residence around 20 times when Joanne was not at home.
Around the same time, Joanne stumbled upon Tylar’s diary containing intimate details of the couple’s sexual encounters. She immediately filed statutory rape charges against Steven and turned over the journal as evidence. However, Steven denied any sexual activity and claimed Tylar was like “a sister” to him. After meeting with law enforcement, Joanne took her teenage daughter to dinner at Joanie’s Cafe and Grill in Shingle Springs and notified her that she had proceeded with filing charges against Steven.
Tylar’s attorney, Mark Ralphs, stated, “She felt betrayed by her mother … and she was devastated. And she was very much afraid that he was gonna go to prison.” The authorities believed that was when the teens plotted to kill her — even though Joanne had already turned over the diary. Lisette said, “They both … made the decision that yes, this is what we’re gonna do.” The investigators hypothesized the murder occurred on June 11 night when Tylar let Steven in after ensuring her mother was asleep.
Though they never found the murder weapon, the detectives believed Steven used a 10-inch long chef’s knife to carry out the killing. On June 16, 2009, the police arrested the teens changing clothes behind a dumpster near The Shops at Tanforan in San Bruno, California. The authorities discovered “a bizarre mixture of Froot Loops, cake, and rat poison” in their San Francisco hotel room — which the teen couple had seemingly consumed in an attempt to fulfill their mutual suicide pact. They were both charged with first-degree murder.
Where Are Tylar Witt and Steven Colver Now?
Tylar accepted a plea deal and agreed to testify against Steven before the case went to trial. In exchange, the prosecution reduced her charge from first-degree to second-degree murder. During the May 2011 trial, she claimed she suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder, having what she termed “three souls crowded in one body.” She alleged her other personalities took control of her during stressful situations. Steven confirmed her claims but asserted she had already killed Joanne when he arrived on June 11 night.
Her legal counsel and the prosecution claimed Steven was solely responsible for the murder and cited small amounts of male DNA found under Joanne’s fingernails and defensive wounds. A jury convicted him of murder and special circumstances of lying in wait, use of a deadly weapon, and killing a witness on June 15, 2011. He was sentenced to life without parole on August 12 while Tylar received her agreed-upon sentence of 15 years to life. Tylar, 28, was granted parole and released from the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla on August 26, 2022. Steven, 33, remains incarcerated at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton.