Jason Young was convicted of first degree murder in the death of his wife in March, 2012. Michelle Young was found dead in her home in Raleigh, NC on the afternoon of November 3, 2006. She was 4 ½ months pregnant. The Young’s daughter Cassidy, age 2 ½ at the time, was unharmed. The body was discovered by Michelle’s sister, Meredith Fisher.
Jason was in Virginia on a business trip. He spent the night of November 2nd at the Hampton Inn in Hillsville, VA, approximately 170 miles from their home. It was about a 3 hour drive and he arrived at the hotel at 10:49PM, verified by surveillance videos. The next morning, he departed the hotel and continued his drive to Clintwood, VA where he had a 10AM appointment scheduled. Though he is not seen leaving the hotel on cameras, he did have his receipt that was placed under the door so we know he was definitely there that morning. His appointment at Dickenson Community Hospital was verified, although he arrived about 20 minutes late because at one point he got lost.
He called Meredith and left her a message at 12:10PM asking her to stop by the house to pick up something from his office printer regarding some purses he was considering buying for Michelle for a late 3rd anniversary gift. When she arrived at the house she found her sister lying face down on the master bedroom floor. Blood was visible on the bed and near the body and bloody footprints were visible on the child’s bathroom floor. Before checking on her sister, she immediately called 911. The call was placed at 1:30PM. Meredith told police that when she went to the other side of the bed to call 911 that Cassidy popped out from beneath the covers. In all, she would tell three different versions of how she found the little girl that day.
If you listen to the call, you will hear her first ask for an ambulance and then state that she believed her sister may be dead. Throughout the call, the 911 operator asked Meredith several times to check on her sister and to roll the body over to attempt CPR. Meredith was more distracted with the little girl than attending to her sister. Not once did she plead in desperation for them to send immediate help for her sister. She said she was unable to roll the body over, and stated that her sister felt cold to the touch. The paramedics arrived shortly after that. The next day the medical examiner determined that Michelle died as a result of blunt force injury to the head.
At this time, Jason was en route to his mother’s home in Brevard, NC. He had decided to visit and spend the night there after his sales calls were completed. His family was informed of Michelle’s death but they decided not to tell Jason about it until he arrived at their home. He arrived sometime later that afternoon and was shocked and devastated at the news. He, his mother, his sister and his brother-in-law made the four hour trip to Raleigh and arrived at Meredith’s house early that evening. While en route, Jason’s friend called him and advised him that he should contact an attorney right away because police were already asking them lots of questions about him. When he arrived in Raleigh, he did not speak to police.
When Jason and his family arrived at Meredith’s, police immediately seized his Ford Bronco and all of the items in the vehicle. It would later be determined that police never inventoried the items from the vehicle, including the contents of the luggage.
The murder investigation lasted until December, 2009 with Jason being the only suspect. At that time, he was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. The first trial was in June, 2011. It ended in a hung jury: 4 guilty, 8 not guilty. The judge declared a mistrial. The second trial was in March 2012. This time the jury reached a guilty verdict. They convicted him based on “absence of evidence”.
Prosecution theory: Young left the hotel at midnight, made the 170mile trip back to Raleigh, murdered his wife, cleaned up his daughter and then returned to the Hampton Inn early that morning.
Key facts and evidence:
- No sign of forced entry found at the Young home. The back door was found unlocked. The sister entered the home by raising the garage door. The door that leads from the garage to the kitchen is always unlocked.
- Michelle was last seen alive at 10:30 p.m. Her friend Shelly Schaad was visiting with her that evening and left the home at that time. She testified that she felt uneasy that evening and felt like they were being watched. She even asked Michelle to walk her to her car that night.
- Cassidy Young was found to be “shockingly” clean after being alone in the home all throughout the night and morning. She had no visible blood on her and was found in the same pink flannel pajamas that she was dressed in the night before, no diaper, no socks or shoes.
- Meredith Fisher gave police three different versions of how she found Cassidy. She found her under the covers in the master bedroom bed; she found her wandering around the house; she found her hiding in a closet.
- A strand of hair was found in Michelle’s hand and was identified as being hers, based on a comparison of the DNA to her profile. However, of a clump of hair found on the body of approximately 50 strands of hair, one sample yielded a match to Michelle, while the other sample gave a partial match. (A partial match can be common in siblings or other close family members.)
- A strand of hair was found on a picture frame by a private investigator hired by the Young family after police had released the house. The DNA was unidentified. (this wasn’t mentioned in trial 2)
- Two cigarette butts were also found by the Youngs’ investigator – one in the garage and another near the entrance from the garage to the kitchen. They also contained unidentified DNA and this evidence was not mentioned in the 2nd trial.
- Two footprints in blood were identified on a pillow near the body: One was a Hushpuppy shoe (approximate size, 12) and the other was a Franklin athletic shoe, size 10. Police ignored the clue that two people were involved in the crime and suggested the size 10 footprint was staged.
- Police determined that Jason purchased a pair of Hushpuppy shoes approximately 15 months before the murder. This would be one of the reasons given for the guilty verdict. The jury expected Young to present those shoes. Remember that the contents of his vehicle were never inventoried. Young testified at trial 1 that he thought his wife may have donated the shoes to charity, but he wasn’t certain what may have happened to the shoes. Furthermore, it was never proven that the shoe print found matched the pair of shoes that Young once owned. The size wasn’t even certain, and the print could have been left by 3 different possibly styles of that brand of shoes.
- Police claim they were unable to find the shirt Young is seen wearing in the Hampton Inn video. A search warrant was issued in February ’08 to search the homes where he had been staying with family, as well as some vehicles and a storage shed. This would be another reason given by the jurors for convicting him. They wanted him to present the shirt to prove his innocence. Remember again that police did not inventory the items seized from his vehicle on 11/3.
- No blood was found on Jason Young and no scratches on his body. Investigators searched his car and his hotel room and no blood was found anywhere.
- Unidentified DNA was found on a jewelry box in the Young’s bedroom. Two drawers from the jewelry box were stolen.
- Unidentified fingerprints and palm prints were found in the Young home, some near the body.
- Gracie Calhoun testified that she saw Jason Young enter the gas station where she worked in King, NC. She said it was at 5:30AM the morning of 11/3. She said he was upset that the pump wouldn’t activate since he was paying with cash. She said he went into the store, threw a $20 at her, swore at her, then got $15 worth of gasoline and left. She was shown one photo, she incorrectly described him as short and balding at a pre-trial hearing and the store didn’t have any surveillance cameras to verify any of this (how convenient for the State). Gracie receives disability due to a head injury she suffered as a child. This would be one of the many “coincidences” described by the jurors that led to the guilty verdict.
- Keith Hicks was working the night shift at the Hampton Inn and he testified that he noticed one of the cameras at a side exit door was unplugged sometime early that morning. The maintenance worker plugged it when he arrived, sometime around 5AM. Hicks said sometime later the camera was pointed up toward the ceiling. A fingerprint was found on the camera that did not match Young’s but the jury was still convinced that he must have tampered with it. Again, this would be another “coincidence” that the jury couldn’t overlook. No evidence of the camera tampering was presented in court. No screen shots showing the times of the camera tampering, which I thought was very odd.
- Hicks also testified that while delivering receipts that night, which are placed under each door, he noticed that same exit door where the camera tampering occurred was propped open with a rock. He secured it.
- Jason’s only hotel room key usage occurred 6 minutes after checking into the hotel. He was seen in the hallway after that and in the lobby close to midnight but he said he didn’t close his door completely so he didn’t have a need to re-enter with his room key.
- The State asserts that Young’s alibi was dependent on both the exit door and his room door remaining propped open all night. Since the exit door was locked, Young would have had to enter through the adjacent glass door that Hicks testified would normally be unlocked at 6AM. He wasn’t seen on any cameras entering the building that morning. Hicks would have had to place a bag with his newspaper on the door that morning and never mentioned anything about finding it ajar.
- The jurors stated that Jason must be guilty because his daughter was found clean and no one but him would have taken the time to clean her up. No one even seemed to consider the possibility that the victim’s sister had every opportunity to clean the child. It isn’t logical to believe that the child got into her mother’s blood, left footprints all over the floor, that Jason cleaned her and that she remained clean for what would have been 10 hours before Meredith found her.
- Meredith Fisher testified that she left work at 9PM the night of the murder. She stated that she was at a bar with a friend, that she left at about 2:30, sat in her car for a while to sober up, then stopped at a Sheetz on the way home for a pretzel. She is seen on the Sheetz camera 3:37-3:59AM. The Young’s home would have been on Meredith’s way home from the Ale House.
- Meredith Fisher’s car keys were found by police on the hood of Michelle’s car. She had no explanation for how they got there and insisted that she placed her keys on the kitchen counter.
- A neighbor, Cindy Beaver testified that she saw an SUV type vehicle exiting the Young’s driveway at approximately 5:20 that morning. She said there was a male driver and a female passenger with thick, bushy hair. This would eliminate Young’s involvement since the State placed him in King, VA at that time via Gracie’s testimony.
- Another neighbor, Fay Hinsley testified that she saw an SUV at the end of the Young’s driveway at 6:15AM that morning.
- Jason was having frequent communication with Michelle Money. Although she lived in Florida, he had recently visited her there and they were having a long distance affair.
- Genevieve Cargol, Young’s ex-fiancee testified that her relationship with him was volatile and that he once pinned her down to try to remove her engagement ring from her hand while they were arguing.
- The jewelry in the Young home had been sorted; the costume jewelry was left behind.
- There was no clear motive provided since the Youngs were not having financial difficulties and Jason was excited about the upcoming arrival of the new baby, a son.