Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Seeing is Believing

Posted February 5, 2007 2:48 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2007 3:39 p.m. EST

We've all heard it before -- a picture is worth a thousand words, but I can tell you that 27 pictures of Michelle Young's autopsy have left me speechless.

The 29-year-old pregnant mother was found beaten to death in her Wake County home on Nov. 3.  The autopsy report chronicles the details of her death in matter-of-fact medical terms.  She was beaten about the head and shoulders as many as 30 times.  Her skull was fractured, her jaw broken, her teeth dislodged.  There were defensive wounds on her hands.  Her 20-week old fetus also died.  But the photographs go deeper than the sterile words of a forensic pathologist.  They are disturbing beyond belief.

I didn't know the victim when she was alive.  Although I have a hunch that our paths may have crossed once or twice before.  But I have gotten to know her through her photographs.  In one, she is a beaming bride with a hundred-watt smile.  In another she is a doting mom with her daughter perched on her hip.  In others she is an all-American girl, a cheerleader enthusiastically belting out her school's name.  She is a sorority sister with her arms draped over the shoulders of her closest friends.  Before today, this is how I knew Michelle Young.

The pictures I saw today bear no resemblance to the beautiful young mother.  In fact, had I not known they were her, I would not have recognized her.  She is bruised, swollen, maimed.  The staff at the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office could not have been more professional and gracious as they presented us with the pictures.  One of the men commented that they are used to these types of photographs, but could not understand why anyone else would ever want to see them unless it is related to their job.

Before today, I might have challenged that assertion, but now I wholeheartedly agree.  Before today, I had a picture of Michelle Young in my head that was bright, cheerful and full of life.  Today, I have a very different picture, and it's one I hope you never have to see.

About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.