Michelle Young

First-degree murder trial begins for Jason Young

Posted June 7, 2011 5:08 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2011 11:50 a.m. EDT

— A Raleigh man accused of killing his pregnant wife more than four years ago never wanted to be married and planned the crime, a Wake County prosecutor said Tuesday during opening statements of his first-degree murder trial.

Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt told jurors that Jason Young, 37, and his wife, Michelle Young, wed in 2003 after finding out she was pregnant with their first child but that he never wanted to have a family.

"What the defendant wanted was to live as if he were single, to go to parties, to go to the football games and the tailgates, to get drunk, to spend time with his friends," Holt said.

The marriage was troubled, she said, with verbal fights that escalated over time in terms of frequency.

"The priorities were different," Holt said, adding that while Michelle Young also liked to have fun, her priorities changed when she became a mother and that she wanted her husband to become responsible.

"His plan was to murder his wife and get on with his life, on his own terms," Holt said.

Michelle Young, 29 and 20 weeks' pregnant with the couple's second child – a boy, Rylan – was found facedown in the master bedroom of the couple's home in the Enchanted Oaks subdivision south of Raleigh on Nov. 3, 2006.

Their daughter, Cassidy, then 2, was found in the home under the covers on her father’s side of the bed when Michelle Young's sister discovered her body.

"After the defendant beat her to death, he fled the home and left Cassidy behind," Holt said. "And it was Cassidy Young who found her mother – Cassidy Young who placed a doll baby by her mother's head to comfort her as she lay in a pool of blood in her bedroom.

"It was Cassidy Young who walked through her mother's blood, into the closet and into the bathroom just down the hall," Holt continued. "Those tiny footprints in blood were one of the first things that Meredith Fisher, Michelle's sister, saw when she got to the house on Nov. 3, that afternoon."

An autopsy report found that Michelle Young died from blunt force trauma to the head, after being struck more than 10 times.

Three years later, authorities arrested Jason Young, who faces life in prison if he's convicted.

"His plan was to murder his wife. His plan was to get away with it," Holt said.

Around 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2006, she said, Jason Young, left home for a business meeting in Virginia, stopping for the night in Hillsville, Va., where he checked into a Hampton Inn shortly before 11 p.m. With two bottles of water and wearing a new set of clothes, he left about an hour later, propping a side door open with a rock and unplugging a security camera. He drove for nearly three hours, anticipating he would kill his wife and get back to Virginia in time for his meeting, Holt said.

But there were a few things that didn't go according to his plan.

"He didn't expect that when he got to that residence that there would be a fight. He didn't expect that there would be blood," Holt said. "What the defendant anticipated was surprising the victim, being able to strangle her to death, but that's not how it happened. He struck her, and struck her, and there was blood all over the place. He left evidence that he didn't expect to leave."

He didn't anticipate running out of time and he didn’t anticipate that on the way back that he would need to stop for gasoline at a convenience store in the small town of King, N.C., Holt said. Known for always using a credit card, he paid with cash after becoming angry and cussing at the clerk because she wouldn’t immediately turn on the gas pump for him.

"He becomes irate and throws a $20 bill at her," Holt said. "He made an impression. She didn't forget him."

Defense attorney Mike Klinkosum, however, said there was no forensic evidence, not even a drop of blood, linking his client to the crime and that there were two sets of adult footprints – a size 10 and a size 12 – near Michelle Young's body.

"Jason Lynn Young did not murder his wife. He did not murder their unborn son, and this case has not been solved," he said.

A private forensic analyst hired by Jason Young's family found a hair on a picture frame in the couple's bedroom that had a DNA profile matching neither the suspect nor the victim. Samples taken from a jewelry box also didn't match either's DNA profiles. Nor did two cigarette butts found in the garage and the doorway leading to the kitchen.

"That DNA came back to two separate male individuals who have not been identified," Klinkosum said.

Klinkosum admitted that there was trouble in the marriage – that his client was having an affair with his wife’s sorority sister, that he was obnoxious and juvenile and acted like an “immature jerk.”

"What the prosecution is going to try to do is convict Jason because he was not a great husband. I will stand here right now and tell you he was not a good husband,” Klinkosum told jurors. "It is OK to be angry at him and mad at him for the things he did."

But that doesn't make him a killer, he said.

“They have got to prove to you that he drove almost three hours back, brutally killed his wife and got out of that house, somehow, without getting a drop of blood anywhere outside that house or in his car," Klinkosum said.

"And they have got to answer to you why there is DNA in that house that doesn't match anyone who lived there. They've got to answer that. At the end of this case, when it's over, you are going to see there is no physical evidence that links Jason Young to this murder."