Michelle Young

Judge allows testimony in Jason Young murder trial

Posted May 20, 2011 12:24 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2011 7:17 p.m. EDT

— A Superior Court judge ruled Friday to allow the testimony of a convenience store clerk who says she sold gasoline to Jason Young on the morning of his wife's death nearly five years ago.

Young, a Raleigh man who goes on trial next month on a first-degree murder charge, has said he was sleeping in a Virginia hotel room at the time that the clerk says he was in her store.

He was arrested in December 2009 in the slaying of Michelle Young, 29, who was five months' pregnant when she was beaten inside the couple's Wake County home on Nov. 3, 2006.

Gracie Dahms was working at Four Brothers Food Store in King, N.C., between 5 and 5:30 a.m. that day, she testified in a pre-trial hearing, when she had a face-to-face confrontation with Jason Young because he had to pre-pay for his gas purchase.

"He got angry, threw a $20 (bill) at me," Dahms said. "He was cussing."

King is approximately 120 miles from Raleigh and 45 miles from Hillsville, Va., where Jason Young told investigators he was sleeping at the time. (View a map)

Wake County sheriff's investigators say they believe that he checked into a Hampton Inn there on the night of Nov. 2, 2006, and then drove back to Raleigh and killed his wife.

Detectives said they canvassed gas stations between Raleigh and Hillsville and met Dahms on Nov. 6, 2006, when she told them that Jason Young had left an impression on her because of the encounter.

Defense attorneys argued that detectives did not follow identification procedures and might have created "an impermissible taint" on Dahms' memory by not showing her a photo lineup.

Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens, however, found there was nothing improper about how detectives conducted multiple interviews and that Dahms' story was her honest recollection, not something resulting form investigators' suggestions.

"'This is the man I saw. He got in my face,'" Stephens said, repeating Dahms' testimony. "He made an impression on her."

Jury selection is expected to begin May 31, and the trial is expected to last approximately one month. Prosecutors have indicated that they will not seek the death penalty.

Investigators haven't offered a motive for Michelle Young's killing, but in search warrants, they have described the couple's marriage as a "volatile" relationship that included violent arguments and infidelity on his part.

In 2009, a judge awarded Michelle Young's family $15.5 million in damages in a wrongful death suit against Jason Young after he failed to respond to the suit.

Michelle Young's sister, Meredith Fisher, has primary custody of the Youngs' daughter, Cassidy, who was 2 years old when she was found in the same room with her mother's body.