Michelle Young

Mom's testimony in murder trial brings smile to Jason Young

Posted June 20, 2011 6:17 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2011 10:37 a.m. EDT

— Jason Young briefly smiled Monday afternoon as his mother took the witness stand, describing his childhood and his relationship with his wife and daughter.

"He loved all sports, camping and hiking. He loved animals. He loved to pester and tease his sisters," Pat Young said. "He was always quite an imp."

That brought the grin – the first sign of emotion that the 37-year-old has shown while on trial for the November 2006 beating death of his wife, Michelle Young, 29. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Within minutes of the start of Pat Young's testimony, defense attorneys introduced a number of photos of Jason Young and his wife on their wedding day in October 2003, as well as photos of the couple with their daughter, Cassidy, after her birth in 2004.

"He was very excited to be a father," Pat Young said. "He absolutely loved her. He stayed in the hospital with Michelle and bragged that he changed that first diaper."

Prosecutors spent the past nine days trying to prove that Jason Young killed his wife, who was five months' pregnant with a boy, inside their Raleigh home on the morning of Nov. 3, 2006, and left his 2-year-old daughter alone in the house with her mother's body.

The couple argued frequently and Jason Young had at least two affairs, the state has said, and investigators believe that he killed his wife because he never wanted to be married or have a family and that he wanted to live life on his own terms – drinking and partying and spending time with his friends.

Defense attorneys have admitted that their client was not a good husband, that he acted juvenile at times and that he could be "an immature jerk."

But they contend that he did not kill his wife and son. He was out of town on business in Virginia at the time, they have said, and there's no physical evidence to connect him to the crime.

Pat Young testified that she and her husband – Jason Young's stepfather – broke the news to him at their home in Brevard, N.C., on the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2006, when he arrived after at their house after his business meeting for an overnight visit.

"Jason went pale. He just went white. He sank down to the ground. He said, 'That can't be right,'" she said. "He started crying. He started asking, 'What about Cassidy?'"

She, her son, youngest daughter and son-in-law packed their bags and made the trip to the Triangle. By the time they arrived at the Fuquay-Varina home of Michelle Young's sister, Pat Young said, friends had called them to let them know that Jason Young needed to retain an attorney.

Jason Young never talked to investigators, defense attorneys have suggested, because he was already considered a suspect.

"I always thought Jason loved Michelle very much," Pat Young said. "They would kid and go on with one another. They argued some."

Both were very strong-willed and stubborn, she added. Still, the marriage had a lot of happy moments, she recalled as she showed jurors photos of the couple together at the Biltmore House and in Puerto Rico – one of their favorite vacation spots. They loved to hike in the rain forest, she said.

"We took Cassidy there (after her mother's death)," Pat Young said. "He told her this was a place her mother loved to go."

The state rested its case Monday morning after the lead detective in the case went through surveillance videos, receipts and phone records that laid out a timeline of Jason Young's activity before and after his wife's death.

Prosecutors say he drove 169 miles from a Hillsville, Va., hotel to Raleigh early in the morning on Nov. 3, 2006, and killed his wife before driving back to the hotel and continuing his business trip.

He called Michelle Young's sister later that morning and left a message for her to stop by his house to retrieve some printouts he said he left concerning a belated anniversary gift for his wife.

She found her sister facedown in a pool of blood later that afternoon. Cassidy, she testified, had been hiding under the covers on her father's side of the bed.

Pat Young is expected to resume her testimony Tuesday morning.