Judge awards $15.5M to slain woman's family in civil suit
Posted March 16, 2009 5:37 a.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2009 7:37 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Monday awarded the family of a slain Wake County woman $15.5 million in damages in a wrongful death suit against the woman's husband.
The award, which includes $11.7 million in punitive damages, was less than half of the $36 million Michelle Young's family had sought from Jason Young.
Michelle Young's mother, Linda Fisher, of Sayville, N.Y., filed a wrongful death suit last year against her son-in-law for her daughter's November 2006 beating death. When Jason Young failed to respond to the civil claim against him, a judge ruled in December that he was responsible for Michelle Young's death.
No one has been charged in the slaying, but Jason Young has been named a suspect in the case.
The civil ruling precluded Jason Young from collecting benefits from his wife's insurance policy and set the stage for Fisher to seek compensation that would go to Michelle and Jason Young's daughter, Cassidy.
Neither Jason Young nor his lawyers attended a Monday court hearing to determine the amount of compensation, which meant Fisher's lawyers were able to present their uncontested version of the case to Judge Osmond Smith.
Attorney Jack Michaels asked Smith to award the family $9 million in damages for the pain and suffering Michelle Young endured, the loss of her income and for Cassidy having to grow up without a mother. Michaels also asked Smith send a message and impose $27 million in punitive damages.
"What happened here to Michelle Young is not the way to end a marriage," Michaels said in his closing argument.
Michelle Young, who was five months' pregnant at the time, was found beaten to death in her Wake County home on Nov. 3, 2006. Her daughter was found unharmed in the home.
Jason Young told investigators he was out of town on business when his wife was killed, but he has otherwise been uncooperative with investigators. He spoke to them once and, under a court order, gave DNA samples.
Wake County Sheriff's Office investigator R.C. Spivey said in search warrants released last week that witnesses told detectives the Youngs "notoriously didn't get along" and that they had witnessed loud fights between the couple that would sometimes last for hours.
Spivey testified Monday that the slaying was particularly brutal.
"(It was) the most severe physical beating I've ever seen someone encounter," he said. "This [was] pretty extreme, a pretty vicious attack that she underwent."
Spivey said that, based on the evidence he's collected in the case over the last 23 months, he believes Jason Young planned his wife's slaying. The evidence includes computer searches on Jason Young's computer for "head trauma" and "the anatomy for the rear part of the skull," Spivey said.
"That ties in with the nature of her death," he said. "In my opinion, (her death) was premeditated."
Fisher testified Monday that her daughter was an intelligent woman and caring mother.
"She's the kind of person who didn't know how beautiful she was. She was a sincere, confident woman to everybody around," she said. "I feel for myself there's an emptiness, it's like my heart's been ripped out of me."
No one can fill the void in Cassidy's life left by her mother's death, Fisher said.
"We try to hug her and love her as much as we could, but it's never enough," she said.
Last month, Jason Young and Fisher reached a settlement in a custody case involving Cassidy. Under that agreement, he will share custody of the child with Michelle Young's sister, Meredith Fisher.
Meredith Fisher testified that Cassidy still has questions about her mother.
"I just grabbed her real tight and told her that her mom loved her so much and that she would squeeze her and hug her like this every chance she could," Meredith Fisher said as she wiped away tears.