Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back to Basics: The Night of the Murder

New information is hard to come by in the investigation into the bludgeoning death of Michelle Fisher Young of Raleigh, North Carolina. What information we have is being bandied about on crime forums as armchair sleuths attempt to piece it together and determine who is responsible. Meanwhile, people who claim to know the Youngs have been entering into the discussions -- some in an attempt to defend Jason Young from what they consider a misinformation campaign designed to vilify the husband, others who have some suspicions of their own about his involvement, and a few who seem to be trying to gather information and figure out what happened just as the rest of us are. While we wait for something to break, I suggest we take a more organized approach at analyzing what we have at hand. There's plenty to work with, but it's scattered throughout news reports, interviews, and forum postings. Granted, what we "know" is only as reliable as its source, but we can only work with what we've got.
  • Michelle was 20 weeks into her third pregnancy. The couple was expecting a boy and had a two-and-a-half year old daughter named Cassidy. Michelle's second pregnancy ended in a therapeutic abortion in June of 2006, when shortly after a May 29 car accident in Transylvania county, it was determined that the baby had stopped developing. Michelle conceived again a couple of weeks later; if the 20-week gestational age is accurate, her baby boy would have been conceived on or about June 30. Friends of Jason insist that the loss of the second pregnancy and the car accident are unrelated, but it's unlikely that her doctor could make that determination with medical certainty. Another person who attended the funeral related hearing that the miscarriage was a result of trauma from the car accident and that Michelle was not wearing her seatbelt when their car went off the highway and down an embankment into the French Broad River. There have been a couple of different explanations given by friends of the Youngs regarding the accident.

    • Someone using the name "ConcernedCitize" posted the following:

      That area is a bad area to be driving in. I have heard (3rd party) that Michelle was trying to reach for something in the back seat when it happened. Jason just lost focus for split second. They were on a curve at the time. It happened very quickly and apparently a common problem area for aaccidents.

    • Another poster who claims to know the Youngs well, wrote the following using the name "just the facts":

      The car wreck in the spring occurred when Jason thought the back of the SUV wasn't closed properly. He glanced back to look at that and his wheels went a little bit off the road. He over corrected the vehicle and that's when the wreck occurred. Despite the media's effort to make that into a huge story, there is no 100' drop off there where they went into the river. Michelle was not wearing her seat belt by her choice, not because he tried to trick her into taking it off. It was a wreck plain and simple. If having a wreck with your spouse in the vehicle is now considered an attempted murder, I guess hundreds of thousands of people nationwide are guilty.

    I've been informed by someone who has seen the accident report that Michelle told the highway patrolman that she was wearing her seatbelt. However, it's not an uncommon thing for people to claim to have been wearing their seatbelt even when they were not. After all, failure to wear a seatbelt is a ticketable offense in North Carolina, as in most other states. In all likelihood, it would be impossible to prove now whether that accident was an orchestrated attempt on the lives of Michelle and her unborn child, and that incident will probably never make it into the courtroom should Jason go to trial for this homicide. It is interesting to note, however, what a stunning surpise the third pregnancy would have been for Jason under such circumstances.

  • Jason left Thursday evening on a business trip to Virginia. Police have not made public the time of Jason's departure, but one friend who has posted at the CourtTV forum stated that Jason was leaving as Michelle's friends were arriving that evening. It's been widely reported that Michelle had company on Thursday evening until approximately 10:30 p.m. The CourtTV poster has put forth that it was a regular thing for Michelle and her friends to watch Grey's Anatomy together. ABC runs the program from 9-10 p.m. on Thursday evenings in North Carolina. The location of Jason's business meeting has not been specified by investigators nor by people who claim to know him, but an industrious sleuth at CourtTV's forum suggested Blacksburg, Virginia as a potential destination. ChartOne, Jason's employer, apparently does quite a bit of business there. If you look at this map, you can see that Blacksburg is a good candidate logistically, as Jason had plans to swing by his parents' home in Brevard after his meeting, spend the night there, and return to Raleigh on Saturday.

Jason's evening departure for a Friday morning business meeting has been the subject of some perplexity from the beginning. Why would he leave in the evening only to arrive at his destination late at night to attend a meeting the following morning? Why not sleep at home and get up early to make the drive? Let's assume, for the sake of argument, the following:
  • that he left shortly before Grey's Anatomy started at 9 p.m.

  • that his sales meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m. the following morning in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Blacksburg is a 3.5-4 hour drive from the Youngs' Raleigh residence. If Jason had opted to make the drive on Friday morning, he would have had to depart at 5 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. appointment. Having guests in the house until 10:30 p.m. and the possible sleep disruptions that accompany a pregnant wife and a toddler might make it difficult to get up that early. On the other hand, a 9 p.m. departure would make for a rather late arrival with Jason probably getting checked in and to bed at about 1 a.m. That's a lot of late night driving after a busy day only to turn around and attend a meeting and drive an additional 4.5 hours to Brevard the following day. I've done a fair bit of traveling. It's not unusual to break a trip up and spend the night somewhere in between, especially when you want to arrive at your destination early in the day. Judging by what Jason told a friend at Michelle's funeral, that's probably what he did.

Jason Young has said he slipped out that evening to get a head start for an early morning sales meeting in Virginia, according to Fussell, who said he talked to Jason Young at his wife's funeral. [emphasis added]

A "head start" suggests that he wasn't planning to drive all the way to the destination in one trek. Friends of Jason have revealed that he arrived at his hotel and called Michelle at 11 p.m. If, as we have assumed for this argument, Jason left home shortly before Grey's Anatomy began, then he drove for approximately two hours before stopping for lodging, possibly on the west side of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Naturally, that would place him overnight within a two hour drive back to the home, which leads me to an interesting point. Less than three days into the investigation, police notified the public that they were interested in information regarding the Youngs' neighborhood on the night in question.

Stephens urged anyone who noticed any vehicle on the roads around Young's home between 1 and 5 a.m. Friday to call the Wake County Sheriff's Office at 856-6800.

That window was later widened to include the hours between midnight and 6 a.m., but it's the 1-5 a.m. window that sparks my interest. How did they arrive at that time frame for the homicide? They can approximate a time of death based on the core body temperature and advancement of rigor mortis, but I'm not convinced that they were able to do that to such a degree of accuracy as to rule out the two and a half hours between the 10:30 p.m. departure of Michelle's friends and 1 a.m. (or even the two hours following Jason's 11 p.m. phone call). There must have been some other, as yet undisclosed, factor that went into making that estimation. Perhaps, investigators have had Jason Young in their sights as the perpetrator from the beginning. They could certainly have determined in the first 2-3 days of the investigation the location of Jason's overnight lodging and the origination of his 11 p.m. call. Relative certainty of his involvement and a travel time of two hours to the scene of the crime may have been the deciding factor in estimating the 1 to 5 a.m. window of opportunity. The 5 a.m. closure of that window would allow Jason the four hours necessary to return to his hotel, check out, and make a 9 a.m. business meeting in Blacksburg, as well.

Well, it's a theory anyway. Blacksburg may not have been the destination point, but there are probably other sites that would fit the same criteria. There is more that we know in relation to the discovery of the body and the avenues of investigation being pursued by police. To keep this entry from getting too long and allow discussion to focus on this portion of the case, I'll save the rest for another entry.


Anonymous said...

I'm the one who suggested the Blacksburg destination for his 9AM meeting. I agree with your analysis of where he checked into a motel on the way to Blackburg, so that he could quickly return to Raleigh to do the dirty deed.

I'm struck by the astronomical coincidences of a trip out of town, a $1,000,000.00 insurance (maybe 2 million if double indemnity) payout, a past death of a fetus in a car accident, rumors of unfaithfulness, perhaps a failing marriage, that results in a non-random killing where nothing was stolen. The odds makers have to conclude that the chances that he didn't kill her are only one in a billion.

Anonymous said...

Of course, it is possible that the seat belt could have caused the death of the fetus.

Average Jane said...

Welcome, anonymous. I appreciate your suggestion of Blacksburg. I think it's a very good candidate for the locale of Jason's meeting. And he could just cruise on down the interstate from there to his mom's house in Brevard.

Yes, the seatbelt could have caused the injury to the fetus. We'll probably never know the truth about that accident. I think there is plenty suspicion among investigators and Michelle's family about it though.