Clerk stands by early-morning gas station encounter with Young
Posted February 9, 2012
Updated February 10, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — One of the state's key witnesses in Jason Young's first trial admitted Thursday to having memory problems and varied on some of her testimony, but she never wavered when it came to a face-to-face confrontation she says she had with him on the morning his wife was killed.
Young, 37, is on trial again for first-degree murder in the Nov. 3, 2006, beating death of Michelle Young, who was five months' pregnant at the time. A jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in his first trial in June, forcing a judge to declare a mistrial.
Gracie Calhoun, a cashier at the Four Brothers Food Store in King, N.C. – about 120 miles from Raleigh – testified Wednesday that she sold Jason Young gasoline around 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2006. He has said he was asleep at the time 45 miles away in a hotel room in Hillsville, Va.
Calhoun said Young came into the store angry because he had to prepay for gas, cursed and threw a $20 bill at her. He went back outside, pumped $15 worth of gas and drove off in a white SUV, she testified.
On cross-examination Thursday, defense attorney Mike Klinkosum challenged Calhoun's memory and testimony about Jason Young's appearance, his height and statements she made about whether there were security cameras in the store.
She met with investigators and prosecutors about a half-dozen times from November 2006 until this month and previously testified twice in the case, Klinkosum said.
In some of the interviews, she was unable to describe what the man she encountered looked like or was wearing, but in others, she described him as having blond hair, being in his mid-20s or early 30s.
In a hearing in May, she was asked about the man's hair or whether he was bald. She responded, "I think he had a little bit. I can't remember off the bat."
Calhoun said that she suffered a traumatic brain injury when she a drunken truck driver hit her when she was 6 years old and that she sometimes has trouble remembering things.
"I've had memory problems since ‘06, because I've been through a lot with myself, my kids and my husband," she said.
On redirect, however, she made it clear that the man whom she says was Jason Young made an impression on her.
"It was still fresh in my memory of what happened that night," Calhoun said. "I don't forget nothing like that when someone fusses at me or cusses at me."
Jason Young has said that he was out of town on business when Michelle Young was killed and has denied any involvement in her death.
Prosecutors, however, contend that he left his home on the night of Nov. 2, 2006, checked into the hotel and then drove back to Raleigh and killed his wife.
Terry Tiller, a New York Times newspaper carrier, testified Thursday that, as she was driving her route through the neighborhood around 3:30 a.m. Nov. 3, 2006, she noticed all the lights inside and outside of the Youngs’ house were on.
"Normally, it was dark," she said. "It did jump out at me."
She also noticed a light-colored, medium-sized SUV parked outside the home. It had been parked as if someone might have been moving something to or from the house, or as if there had been a party and the vehicle was positioned to make room for others, Tiller said.
Across the street from the house, she said, she also noticed a parked minivan.
Dr. Thomas Clark, a former deputy chief medical examiner for the state, also testified that Michelle Young, 29, died from blunt force injury to the head and that there were signs of strangulation.
She had injuries scattered over her head, neck and hands, he said, which included blunt force injuries, multiple cuts and bruises, defensive wounds, a skull and jaw fracture and her teeth were knocked out.
"There had to be at least 30 distinct blows, and there may have been more, considering all of the injuries, including the hands," Clark said.
There was no evidence that Michelle Young languished, he added, and many of the injuries were likely caused by a heavy blunt object that had a rounded surface.
She was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 124 pounds, Clark said.
Defense attorneys contend that Jason Young did not kill his wife and that there is no physical evidence linking their client to the crime but that there is evidence to suggest someone else did.
There were DNA and fingerprints in the home, including evidence from a jewelry box in the couple's bedroom, that match neither Jason Young, his wife nor more than 100 other people associated with the case.
There were bloody shoe prints, Klinkosum said in opening statements, that the state could not definitively link to Jason Young, and there was no blood found in the downstairs of the couple's house or in Jason Young's white Ford Explorer.
Brent David, an investigator for the Wake County Sheriff's Office, testified, however, that he found blood on the knob of a door leading from the kitchen to the garage that matched Michelle Young.
In the state's opening statement, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt said the couple's marriage had been in trouble.
Jason Young, she said, felt he had been pressured into getting married when the couple found out Michelle Young was pregnant with their first child, and that despite being married for three years, he didn't want to settle down.
Michelle Young's co-worker, Valerie Bolick, testified that Michelle Young told her that she was excited about her pregnancy but "did not get the reaction out of Jason that she had hoped to get."
"She did not say any more about that," Bolick said.
Michelle Young had been pregnant earlier that year, Bolick and other witnesses testified, but suffered a miscarriage after a wreck in which Jason Young ran off the road and down a river embankment.
She told Bolick that it happened when he was driving and turned toward a light in the vehicle just as she had taken off her seat belt to reach for her makeup bag.
There was also tension because of Jason Young's immaturity, Michelle Young's relationship with her mother and a lack of sex in the couple's marriage, witnesses have testified.
Klinkosum has conceded that his client was not a good husband but said that doesn't mean he killed his wife.