Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back to Basics: The Murder Discovered

While we await news in the Michelle Young murder investigation, I'd like to revisit the events of Friday, November 3, 2006, as can be gleaned from various news reports, court documents available to the public, and unconfirmed reports provided by those who claim inside information and/or a personal relationship with the Youngs. My reasons are two-fold. First, as is usually the case, the process helps me to organize my thoughts and inspires new questions. Second, as more information has become available, some of the theories expressed in earlier entries have become unlikely -- some disproven -- and are not a good representation of my current beliefs about the case.

At about 1:30 p.m. on Friday, November 3, Meredith Fisher called 911. She had gone to the Young's residence, 5801 Birchleaf Drive in Raleigh, NC, at the request of her brother-in-law, Jason Young, to retrieve a document from the computer printer. Upon arriving, Meredith discovered an unbelievable and horrific scene. The family dog was in a highly agitated state; Michelle Young was lyng face-down in a pool of blood on the floor of the master bedroom; and Cassidy, her 2½-year-old daughter, was unharmed by her mother's side.

Meredith soon discovered that her sister was dead and had been for many hours. Her body was cold to the touch and in an advanced state of rigor mortis. A preliminary report by the medical examiner estimates that Michelle had died from blunt force trauma to the head sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. It's unknown at this time whether the time of death has been further narrowed by completion of the autopsy. That report is not yet available. However, of note is the exclusion of the 1½ hours between 10:30 p.m., the time that Michelle was last seen alive, and midnight. It's doubtful that a preliminary examination by the ME could rule out that period of time, so investigators must have some other evidence, such as telephone or computer use perhaps, indicating that Michelle was alive until midnight.

Meredith informed the 911 operator that her sister's house did not look like it usually does; there was blood in the bed and small bloody footprints everywhere. In trying to help her mother and bandage her "boo-boos", Cassidy had tracked Michelle's blood throughout the house. It's been stated by those "in the know" that the dog had also tracked through the blood.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison informed the public that the murder did not have the appearance of a random crime. There was no sign of forced entry and nothing appeared to be missing from the home. Someone claiming to know the Youngs disagrees, insisting that she was told by a person who observed the crime scene that drawers were missing from Michelle Young's jewelry box in the master bedroom and valuable jewelry was taken. Additionally, this person states that Michelle's purse was on the floor. According to this 11/21 search warrant, Michelle's purse was in the kitchen.

There are still a lot of unknowns regarding the document that Meredith was asked to retrieve. According to court documents, Jason Young made the request via a voicemail for Meredith. The time and location of origin of that call have yet to be released by investigators. Early reports were that the document was a fax; various outlets indicated that it had to do with a gift Jason Young planned to purchase for his wife and didn't want her to see. The search warrant for the Youngs' Compaq Presario computer includes the following information about the document:
The victim's sister came to the house to retrieve a document, which was on the printer, located next to the computer. The document had been printed from that computer the hours before the victim's death was discovered.
Authorities have not revealed the contents of that document or where it originated, though it was referred to in the probable cause section of the warrant to search a Dell Inspiron computer belonging to Michelle Money of Ocoee, Forida. The warrant also revealed that Jason and Ms. Money had been involved in a relationship; the pair were in almost daily contact by phone and email for some three months preceding the murder. In addition, the time and location of Jason's call to Meredith have not yet been made public. Understandably, there has been a lot of speculation about the "fax", with many postulating that it was a ruse to get Meredith to the house in order to rescue Cassidy and discover the murder.

Jason Young, the victim's husband, reportedly left home on Thursday evening to get a head-start on a Friday morning business trip to Virginia. The exact time of his departure is not known to the public. According to a friend, Jason planned to visit his parents in Brevard, North Carolina after his meeting and before returning to Raleigh. Whether that side-trip was planned before leaving home or was a spontaneous decision of Friday morning is dubious, as no one as yet has confirmed having prior knowledge of the trip. Receipts found in Young's Ford Explorer appear to confirm the trip to Virginia, but the location of his hotel has not yet been revealed. With information known to date, the timeline still allows enough leeway for Jason Young to have returned to Raleigh during the night, committed the crime, and made it to his meeting the following morning, the exact location of which is yet to be revealed. It's also unclear whether or not Jason actually attended a meeting or kept any sort of appointment on Friday morning. If investigators have that information, they've yet to make it public. What we do know is that, on Friday morning, Jason purchased gas at the Get-It Market in Duffield, VA -- a little burg off the beaten path in the southwestern corner of the state. It's a mystery what took him to that convenience store, as it is more than 40 miles off the interstate.

Jason reportedly arrived at his mother's Brevard home on Friday afternoon. He was greeted in the front yard by his step-father. Upon being told of Michelle's death, Jason "went plumb to his knees." Returning to the Raleigh area with his mother and other family members, Jason apparently drove to his sister-in-law's house in Fuquay-Varina Friday night, probably to pick up his daughter. His vehicle was observed there by WCSO Major R. L. Johnson, who noticed spots, consistent in appearance with blood, on the driver's side rear door and on the seat behind the driver's seat. Major Johnson spoke briefly with Jason Young who officials indicate has refused to be interviewed or assist with the investigation. The Ford Explorer and and all of its contents were detained and a warrant was executed early the following morning.

There have been no arrests in the case, and the Wake County Sheriff's Office has not publicly named a suspect. However, all investigatory documents released to date seem to indicate that Jason Young is the focus of the investigation. If he did commit this homicide, I surmise that he probably drove about 3 hours on Thursday evening, checking in to a Hampton Inn in the vicinity of the I-77/I-81 junction, outlined on this map. (The map takes a little while to load but is very helpful in visualizing the itinerary, so be patient. And by all means, use the zoom feature.) That stopping point is a reasonable conjecture regardless of Jason's innocence or culpability. There are plenty of accommodations there and it is centric to several options for the location of his meeting, in addition to being logistically plausible with the Get-It-Market, the side-trip to Brevard, and a possible return trip to Raleigh during the night.

The investigation goes on as officials continue to be tight-lipped about details. Perhaps we'll learn more with the release of the autopsy report, which I'm told will likely occur later today.


RPD said...

Good recap...keep up the good work !

Anonymous said...

Autopsy report is out.

It will be interesting to see who's hair she had.