Jason’s Journey: Gas Mileage Analysis

The issue of fuel usage has been a point of interest for many following the Michelle Young murder investigation since early on.  Information from the recently executed warrants for Jason Young’s Internet activity have made it possible to better analyze the route that he traveled and the amount of fuel he would have burned on his alibi trip. The following is an excerpt from the 3/10/2009 warrant for Jason Young’s Bebo.com account:

 

 In order to test Jason Young’s gas usage as it compared to the distance that he would have traveled on November 2-3, 2006 investigators with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office performed an experiment.

 

Investigators left South Saunders Street in Raleigh, North Carolina with a full tank of gas in a 2004 Ford Explorer that was comparable with the vehicle driven by Mr. Young.  South Saunders Street was chosen as a departure site because Jason Young stopped here for fuel prior to leaving on his business trip.  In a attempt to replicate Mr. Young’s trip as closely as possible, the stopped at the Cracker Barrel on Landview Dr. in Greensboro, NC, the Hampton Inn in Hillsville, Va, Dickenson Hospital in Clintwood, Va, and finally stopping at the Get-It-Mart in Duffield, Va. to refuel.

 

The amount of fuel used by the investigators was not consistent with the amount of fuel reportedly utilized by Mr. Young.  In fact, investigators knew the comparisons would not be completely accurate prior to conducting the experiment.  This inability to be accurate was because Mr. Young was 35 minutes late to his appointment.  His explanation for being late was due to getting lost.  The 35 minutes Mr. Young was late not only reflects time, but also distance traveled.  Distance traveled will equal gas used and any additional gas usage by Mr. Young would only increase the inconsistency between his reported gas usage and that experienced by the investigators conducting the experiment.

Using Windows Live Maps, I calculated the miles driven on the route from the Handee Hugo #89 in Raleigh, NC, to the Dickenson Community Hospital in Clintwood, VA, and on to the Get-It Market in Duffield, VA, with stops at the Cracker Barrell in Greensboro, NC, and the Hampton Inn in Hillsville, VA:

  • Handee Hugo #89 – Cracker Barrel: 84.9 miles
  • Cracker Barrel – Hillsville Hampton Inn: 88.5 miles
  • Hillsville Hampton – Dickenson Community Hospital: 150.1 miles
  • Dickenson Community Hospital – Get-It Market: 53.2 miles
    • Total miles driven: 376.7 miles

The following calculations were done on the basis of gas mileage specifications for a 2WD, 8 cylinder, 2004 Ford Explorer from www.fueleconomy.gov.

  • Interstate miles driven:  249.7 miles @ 18 mpg = 13.87 gallons burned
  • Other miles driven: 127 miles @ 16 mpg = 7.94 gallons burned
    • Total fuel used between fill-ups at the Handee Hugo #89 and the Get-It Market in Duffield, VA: 21.81 gallons
    • Fuel tank capacity of 2004 Ford Explorer: 22.5 gallons

Using only the above parameters, Jason’s fuel tank would have had less than a gallon left in it when he stopped to refuel in Duffield, VA.  He would have been long past the point of getting a low fuel warning; the needle on his fuel gauge would have been on E.  If he was that low on fuel, why wouldn’t he have fueled up immediately after his meeting in Clintwood an hour earlier instead of driving another hour down the road to get gas in Duffield?

Assume he was a risk-taker and drove until his tank was practically empty; that explanation fails to take into account the time that he was allegedly lost which caused him to be late for his meeting.  Windows Live Maps estimates that it takes approximately 2 hours, 10 minutes to drive from the Wytheville cell tower location to the hospital in Clintwood, Virginia. Jason’s cell phone pinged at 7:40 pm near the Wytheville cell tower. He arrived 35 minutes late for a 10 am meeting at the Dickenson Community Hospital. So the drive actually took him 2 hours, 55 minutes.  To calculate the fuel usage for the time he was allegedly lost, I will estimate that he averaged 65 mph and burned gas at a rate of 16 mpg.  Forty-five minutes of driving  would burn approximately 3 gallons of gas.

Using the above calculations, Jason should have burned approximately 24.81 gallons of gas between fill-ups.  The tank on a 2004 Ford Explorer holds only 22.5 gallons.  So it would appear that he purchased or had access to additional fuel somewhere along the way — a troublesome detail for his defense attorney.

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