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Young Autopsy Report

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of North Carolina released the autopsy report of Michelle Young on Monday, confirming that the 29-year-old pregnant mom died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. In summary, the pathologist wrote the following:

Michelle Young was a 29-year-old woman who was found dead in her home along with her small child.Autopsy examination shows extensive blunt force injury. Multiple blunt force injuries to the head have resulted in lacerations, extensive abrasions and contusions, multiple fractures of the mandible, avulsion of teeth, multiple skull fractures, and subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain. There is injury to the neck consistent with manual strangulation. Blunt force injury to the left deltoid region has resulted in an abrasion and multiple contusions. Blunt force injury to the extremities has resulted in laceration of the left thumb, abrasion of the right wrist, and multiple confluent bruises over both hands. Other anatomic findings include an intrauterine pregnancy. A postmortem alcohol determination is negative.

Death is most likely due to blunt force injuries to the head.

 

Though the public has awaited this report for 2½ months, that part — the cause of death — was to be expected, having been widely published mere days after the murder. Unforeseen by many is the extreme brutality and viciousness of the attack. An attempted strangulation and some thirty blows to the head, neck and shoulder make it indubitably clear that the assailant intended to kill this woman and was determined to see it through to the bitter end.

Michelle did not die quietly. She fought for her life. A set of fingernail scratches on the left side of her neck illustrate her attempt — a discernibly successful attempt — to stave off the strangulation, which is evidenced by hemorrhage of the strap muscles in her neck. It appears that the killer then resorted to a barbaric and merciless barrage of blows, the majority of which are concentrated on the head, that left the victim with skull fractures, a broken jaw, at least twenty-five lacerations, multiple abrasions and contusions, and fractured and avulsed teeth. Scrapes and bruises to the backs of Michelle’s hands, as well as a laceration on her left thumb, demonstrate that she attempted to shield her head from the flurry of blows rained down by her attacker. But to no avail. Most likely attacked in her bed in the middle of the night, she was at a distinct disadvantage. Perhaps startled from sleep by an unknown presence in the house or the throttling grasp of the intruder’s hands, she was barefoot, unarmed and 20 weeks pregnant. The murderer, on the other hand, likely had the advantage of size, strength, stealth and malevolent intent. Abrasions and contusions on the left shoulder may be an indication that she crouched in a defensive position against the side of her bed or perhaps cowering in the niche between bed and nightstand during part of the onslaught.

Some may disagree with my assessment and interpretation, and of course, the Average Jane Disclaimer applies. I’ve read speculation that this may have been a verbal altercation that escalated to a physical assault and ultimately death. I admit that the same thought crossed my mind upon first reading the report. But on further review and rumination, I don’t believe the evidence supports that theory. The injuries to the mouth were the result of crushing impact that split both upper and lower lips, broke off and knocked out teeth, and fractured the surrounding bone. This was no backhanded slap in response to a verbal offense. There is no evidence that the assailant chased Michelle around the room landing poorly aimed blows on her retreating back. The injuries are concentrated and don’t appear to be inflicted by someone swinging in a blind rage. There are no scrapes or bruises on her legs to indicate that she was repeatedly knocked down. The location of her avulsed teeth on the floor near her head implies that she was stationary during much of the attack.

Some contend that Michelle’s clothing is proof that she had not yet gone to bed for the evening.

The decedent is clothed in a hooded sweatshirt which is zipped up, a T-shirt, black pants, and pink panties.

Without a more specific description, it could just as easily be argued that this was loungewear commonly worn by women of Michelle’s generation. It might be explained as the pragmatic choice of a mother whose husband is away on business, the indifference of a pregnant woman too tired to bother with changing, or a personal preference. Of note is the fact that she was not wearing shoes, socks, or a bra and her hair was not pulled up or tied back.

As for the weapon, some of the lacerations and abrasions — the crescentic abrasion on the left deltoid, in particular — have the appearance of being inflicted by a hard, cylindrical object. I tend to envisage the barrel of a hefty flashlight rather than a bat, which in my unlearned opinion, would have resulted in more numerous and pulverizing skull fractures. If the murder weapon has been recovered or identified by investigators, they have not yet revealed that detail.

There isn’t enough information to determine if any items of evidentiary value in identifying the murderer were found on Michelle’s body. The scratches on her neck provide the possibility that Michelle also scratched her attacker. Her nails were clipped by the ME and preserved for DNA testing of any skin scrapings beneath them. If the murderer was not wearing gloves, his fingerprints may have been found on Michelle’s neck, detectable with cyanoacrylate (superglue) fumes. Certainly, the evidence of a struggle gave investigators reason to believe that the perpetrator may have been injured and prompted them to demand DNA samples and photographs of Jason Young’s body. A hair found adhered in blood to Michelle’s hand was also preserved for testing. However, it wouldn’t be very strong evidence unless it proved to be from someone who had no reason for being in the Youngs’ house. The presence of a follicle attached to the hair could boost its evidentiary value if it turned out to be Jason’s though.

A prelimary report issued in early November placed the time of death between midnight and 6 a.m. on November 3, 2006. The completed autopsy report does not specify time of death. However, there are some details listed that may have been useful in narrowing it. Upon discovering the body at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Meredith, the victim’s sister remarked that she was cold to the touch and her limbs were stiff, apparently in full or near full rigor. When the ME examined the body at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, rigor was not detectable. Meredith informed the 911 operator that her sister was lying face-down, but the ME denotes that livor was dark and posterior upon his examination, indicating that it had not yet set when the body was discovered. There was approximately 70 grams of thick, partially-digested food in Michelle’s stomach. All of these things might be useful to a trained expert in narrowing the timeline. Perhaps, a more thorough report of the pathologist’s findings and interpretations already exists. If one isn’t made publicly available beforehand, I’m sure he will be questioned about and testify to his opinions regarding time of death and possible murder weapons when this case goes to trial.

In the meantime, the findings in this report offer more to study in conjunction with information included in other previously released documents. I hope to do that in a future entry. Actually, I was working on an interpretation of the investigation prior to the release of the autopsy report and hope to finish it soon. Bear with me.

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A Brief Note on Michelle Young’s Autopsy

I understand that some of you are wondering why I haven’t posted an entry about Michelle Young’s autopsy findings. You would think I’d be on top of it being that I posted last Friday that the report would very shortly be available. I can only chalk up my untimeliness to a busy real life. I did spend most of my free time yesterday studying the report and briefly discussing it with an acquaintance, so I hope to have a thorough entry up soon. As a matter of fact, I awoke last night with a pretty good discourse running through my head, but today I cannot recall the words. I probably should have typed it up last night, but my husband might have seriously considered having me committed to an institution if I’d gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to post a blog entry. So, be patient and check back later. I will get to it — hopefully, sooner rather than later. In the meantime, read the report yourself and feel free to discuss it in the comment section. The link in the first sentence of this entry will take you to WRAL.com’s copy of the report in a flash media format. Be prepared though. It was an extremely brutal and extensive attack. It’s not an easy read by any means.

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.

Young PhotosClick to Enlarge

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A Tender Tail Tale

Remember Aesop’s fable, The Lion and the Mouse? It’s the first thing I thought of while watching this video at MSNBC.com. Enjoy!

Lion gets a hug

Jan. 12: An African lion has struck up a close friendship with the woman in Colombia who saved his life.

Jason’s SUV: Items of Interest

If you’ve read the comment section of the previous blog entry, you’ve seen this post by Captain Joe:

I’ve found out where JY went to in VA and why. There was a gas receipt from a place called Get I market shown on a warrant today. I believe that it was a mis-spelling. It should be Get-IT market, and there’s only one of those in VA, in Duffield, VA. And from a news article in October, If you read this article about a new medical center in Duffield, VA that was published last October, you can see why he went there. They were looking for bids on a medical data program. I think his trip there was legitimate, that’s exactly where he went to.http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=3691596

 

I consider Captain Joe’s find very interesting and a good potential candidate for the location of Jason’s Friday morning meeting in Virginia.

As Captain Joe noted, and I mentioned in an earlier entry, a gas purchase receipt, dated November 3, from a business referred to as the “Get I Market” was found in Jason’s Explorer. I’ve been unable to locate any such business in North Carolina, Virginia or Tennesee. There is, however, a Get-It Market in Duffield, Virgina. Duffield is an approximate five hour drive from the Young’s Raleigh residence — a long haul, considering he left in the evening hours. As you may recall, Jason reportedly told a friend at Michelle’s funeral that he left Thursday evening for a headstart on an early morning meeting in Virginia. I surmise that Jason may have driven about three hours on Thursday evening and found lodging in the area around the junction of Interstates 77 and 81 in Virginia. There are several Hampton Inns in that region, and the search warrant for Jason’s SUV lists a November 2 receipt for a “Hampton Hotel”.

During the search of the home, investigators also confiscated a Hampton Inn reservation confirmation for the dates September 5-8. If that Hampton Inn was also in Virginia, it could be an indication that Jason was familiar with hotels in the area I’ve outlined on this map. Familiar enough to use one of them as an effective alibi in the planning of a murder? Time will tell.

Update: 5:23 pm, CT

Just in case any of you are wondering why I didn’t write about the two spots, consistent in appearance with blood, found by Major R. L. Johnson of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office on the rear driver’s side door and the rear driver’s side seat of Jason’s Ford Explorer, I can only say that, at this point, I’m not convinced that they have any evidentiary value. They’ve surely been tested for the presence of human blood and, in the event they tested positive, DNA-tested to determine whose blood it might be. I find it difficult to believe that Jason would have gotten his vehicle back if either of those stains had turned out to be Michelle’s blood.

In giving further thought to the absence of mention of any luggage in the warrant, I have a few questions:

  • Did Jason and his passengers unload their luggage prior to arrival at Meredith’s residence? If so, where?
  • Did Jason and his passenger transport their luggage in another vehicle in anticipation of the search and seizure that would have seemed inevitable in light of the apparent distrust for Wake County Sheriff’s officials exhibited by Jason’s stepfather?
  • Or was an additional search done after the SUV was hauled in, detailing the luggage and contents thereof?

It’s my opinion that we should expect to see more investigatory paperwork in regard to that SUV. Certainly, there will be a report forthcoming on those two suspicious spots.

Update: 01/07/07, 2:45 pm, CT

It’s been pointed out to me that there is another Get-It Market in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. I’ve charted both Virginia stores on this livesearch map. I’ve also been told that there are Get-It Markets in Tennesee, but I’ve been unsuccessful in digging up any information on those. I’d appreciate any help provided in locating those stores.

Young Search Warrants

The search warrant for Jason Young’s 2004 Ford Explorer was returned today after his SUV was released to his attorney yesterday. That link will take you to WRAL’s copy of the warrant. Of note is the mention in the probable cause section of dark spots, consistent in appearance with blood droplets, in two locations in and on the SUV. Those may turn out to be nothing relevant to the murder but were certainly a good excuse for Wake County Sheriff’s officers to search the vehicle.

The vehicle was detained prior to the search at a residence in Fuquay-Varina — to my knowledge, the home of the victim’s sister, Meredith Fisher.

The inventory list is mostly unremarkable, but it appears that the list may be incomplete. There is no mention of luggage and the phrase “nothing follows” is conspicuously absent from the bottom of the list.

Of interest to me are the two receipts for gas and one for lodging. The Han-dee Hugo #89 is located at 2516 South Saunders Street in Raleigh — not far from the Youngs’ residence. After much searching, I was unable to locate a “Get I Market” in any of three states — North Carolina, Virginia, or Tennesee. I did find a Get-It Market in a little burg off the beaten path in southwestern Virginia — Duffield, Virginia. I also searched for other variations including Get One Market and Get 1 Market. No luck with those. As for the “Hampton Hotel”, this probably refers to a Hampton Inn in Virginia, of which there are several. The one that caught my attention for no particular reason is the Hampton Inn in Abingdon, Virgina. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

WRAL has links to the earlier released search warrants on this page.

Update: 9:17 pm, CT

There is, in fact, another page to the search warrant inventory. It includes the Dell laptop computer, various papers, and an automotive repair or maintenance invoice. Still no mention of luggage however.

I’ve mapped out some of the Hampton Inns in southwestern Virginia for reference as to where Jason may have checked in on November 2.

Hampton Inns Map

Distance and travel time from the Raleigh residence can be easily calculated by hovering over the markers and selecting the desired options.

Update: 01/06/07, 11:45 am, CT

If you’ve read the comment section of this blog entry, you’ve seen this post by Captain Joe:

I’ve found out where JY went to in VA and why. There was a gas receipt from a place called Get I market shown on a warrant today. I believe that it was a mis-spelling. It should be Get-IT market, and there’s only one of those in VA, in Duffield, VA. And from a news article in October, If you read this article about a new medical center in Duffield, VA that was published last October, you can see why he went there. They were looking for bids on a medical data program. I think his trip there was legitimate, that’s exactly where he went to.http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=3691596

 

I consider Captain Joe’s find very interesting and a good potential candidate for the location of Jason’s Friday morning meeting in Virginia.

As Captain Joe noted, and I mentioned earlier in this entry, a gas purchase receipt, dated November 3, from a business referred to as the “Get I Market” was found in Jason’s Explorer. I’ve been unable to locate any such business in North Carolina, Virginia or Tennesee. There is, however, a Get-It Market in Duffield, Virgina. However, Duffield is an approximate five hour drive from the Young’s Raleigh residence — a long haul, considering he left in the evening hours. As you may recall, Jason reportedly told a friend at Michelle’s funeral that he left Thursday evening for a headstart on an early morning meeting in Virginia. I surmise that Jason may have driven about three hours on Thursday evening and found lodging in the area around the junction of Interstates 77 and 81 in Virginia. There are several Hampton Inns in that region, and the search warrant for Jason’s SUV lists a November 2 receipt for a “Hampton Hotel”.

During the search of the home, investigators also confiscated a Hampton Inn reservation confirmation for the dates September 5-8. If that Hampton Inn was also in Virginia, it could be an indication that Jason was familiar with hotels in the area I’ve outlined on this map. Familiar enough to use one of them as an alibi in the planning of a murder? Time will tell.

I’ve decided to make this update its own entry. Please comment there.

Cruel & Unusual

As suggested in the December 18 entry on this blog, entitled “What was missing?”, it has now been confirmed by Linda Fisher that Cassidy Young has not been allowed to see her maternal family members since Michelle Fisher Young’s murder on November 3.

Read this Newsday article for more.