Jason Young tells jury he didn't kill his wife
Posted June 22, 2011 9:41 a.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2011 10:04 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Jason Young waived his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in his first-degree murder trial and took the witness stand Wednesday, saying that although he was not a proper husband, he did not kill his wife inside their Wake County home nearly five years ago.
Michelle Young, 29, was five months’ pregnant when she was found facedown in a pool of blood in the couple's bedroom on Nov. 3, 2006. Their daughter, Cassidy, then 2, was found unharmed under the covers of her parents' bed.
Jason Young, who was arrested in December 2009, told jurors that he loved his wife and unborn son. He didn't kill her, he was not there when she died, and he doesn't know who committed the crime, he said.
"I've lost everything," he said. "I've lost family, friends, jobs. I've lost everything."
It's now up to a jury to decide whether he is telling the truth.
Closing arguments are expected Thursday morning, and both defense attorneys and prosecutors each have two hours to argue their case.
If convicted, Jason Young will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors spent nine days trying to prove that he killed his wife because his marriage wasn't what he thought it would be and that he wanted to live life on his own terms – drinking, partying and spending time with his friends.
Witnesses testified over the course of the trial that Jason Young cheated on his wife and that they argued often and publicly. Common themes, they testified, were the lack of intimacy in the marriage and Michelle Young's relationship with her mother.
Jason Young, a sales representative for a medical software company at the time, said that he was out of town on business when Michelle Young died. He left his home south of Raleigh shortly before 7:30 p.m. on the night of Nov. 2, 2006, and drove to Hillsville, Va., where he stayed the night. He said he continued on the next morning to a sales meeting in Clintwood, Va.
He checked into a Hampton Inn shortly before 11 p.m. and went to his room, where he called his wife and then prepared for his sales meeting the next day. He said he realized he left his laptop charger in his Ford Explorer and left the room, door ajar, and went out an exit door that he propped open with a twig from a bush.
After returning to his room, he last used his laptop around 11:53 p.m. and then decided to go outside to smoke a cigar, he testified. He returned, brushed his teeth and set his alarm for around 6:15 a.m. the next morning.
The state contends that Jason Young checked into the hotel, put a rock in the exit door, unplugged the security camera and returned to Raleigh and beat his wife to death.
On his way back to Virginia after the murder, prosecutors say, he stopped around 5:30 a.m. at a gas station in King, N.C. – 45 minutes from Hillsville. A store employee testified that she remembered him because he cursed at her and threw a $20 bill at her because she wouldn't activate the gas pump until he paid.
Jason Young said that employee, Gracie Dahms, never saw him at the store that morning.
"No sir, I was in my hotel room," he told defense attorney Bryan Collins.
Bloody shoeprints found in the Youngs' bedroom weren't Jason Young's either, according to his testimony.
Prosecutors say one set of shoe impressions matched a pair of Hush Puppies Orbital shoes that Jason Young had purchased in July 2005. Jason Young said he wore the shoes often but that his wife got rid of them when they were no longer fit to wear.
Jason Young also admitted to searching for the terms "anatomy of a knockout" and "head trauma" on his home computer, saying that he had witnessed an auto wreck that summer and felt helpless that he couldn't do more to help the crash victim.
"I wanted to know if there was anything else that I could have done in that situation," Jason Young said.
Investigators testified that they were never able to find a dark-colored shirt with a stripe across the chest that Jason Young was wearing in a hotel security video the night before his wife's death. Collins, however, pointed out in a photo of Cassidy's third birthday party that his client was wearing a dark blue shirt with a line across the chest.
Jason Young has never spoken to detectives about his wife's slaying, and investigators have characterized him as being uncooperative.
In March 2009, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens awarded Michelle Young's family $15.5 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Jason Young never responded to the complaint, and Stephens ruled that, by failing to do so, he conceded a civil judgment that holds him liable for his wife's death.
A month earlier, Jason Young reached a custody agreement with his wife's sister, Meredith Fisher. Part of that agreement, attorney Mike Schawski testified last week, was that he would not have to give a deposition or submit to a psychological examination.
Jason Young said Wednesday that he never spoke to investigators or anyone else about the case on the advice of a lawyer and at the urging of friends, who were calling him hours after he heard about his wife’s murder and telling him not to talk.
Jason Young said that he had traveled to see his family in Brevard, N.C., after his business meeting in Clintwood. His mother and stepfather broke the news to him when he arrived at their home.
"I just fell. I just broke on the inside. I didn't believe it," he said. "It just didn't feel real. It didn't feel like it was happening. I didn't believe it, and I didn't understand it."
Jason Young said he met his wife at a bar in downtown Raleigh and that the two began dating. In 2003, he found out she was pregnant.
"We were both very shocked. It wasn't planned. It was a surprise – but a good surprise," he said. "It certainly expedited the marriage. It made it happen sooner."
After Cassidy's birth, the two planned for another baby. In 2006, she became pregnant with a boy, to be named Rylan.
"Both of us were thrilled. It couldn't have been more perfect," Jason Young said. "I think we both wanted to experience having a girl and a boy. It was so storybook."
Jason Young said that the two began making plans for the new baby, which included Michelle Young cutting back on her work hours at Progress Energy. They had also discussed having his mother-in-law, Linda Fisher, come live with them.
"I did not want to live with my mother-in-law," Jason Young said. "I was adamant about Linda not living with us."
Linda Fisher was a source of tension in the marriage, witnesses have testified, describing their relationship as "tense at best." Partly, Jason Young said, that was because his wife seemed to always call her mother whenever she was upset after an argument.
"Michelle could be pretty dramatic," he said, adding that she would relay information to her mother that wasn't always accurate and that Linda Fisher "would always hear these really bad things."
On cross-examination, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Beck Holt stayed away from questioning Jason Young about his actions before and after his wife's death, choosing to focus on his relationship with his wife and the other women in his life.
Jason Young admitted to pinning his former fiancée, Genevieve Cargol, in 1999 and, in a drunken state, removing her engagement ring from her finger. But he denied other allegations that he had been violent – specifically about punching a hole in his apartment wall after Cargol found a letter from another woman and punching a hole in Cargol's car windshield.
He also admitted to two affairs within a month before Michelle Young's death, including one with his wife's sorority sister and friend, Michelle Money. But, Jason Young said, he had no plans to leave his wife, despite more than 400 phone calls, text messages and emails with Money in one month's time.
Both knew nothing would come from the relationship, he said.
"She knew that I loved Cassidy, and I loved Michelle. We both knew it was wrong. I don't think either one of us dreamed it would be found out," he said. "We knew it had to stop."