Jason Young testifies in own defense

Jason Young on the witness stand
June 22, 2011 1:29:24 PM PDT
Jason Young took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday morning and told a Raleigh jury that he did not beat his wife Michelle to death in 2006.

"No sir, I did not," he testified.

Young, 37, is charged with first-degree murder. Michelle was 5-months pregnant with the couple's second child when she was found in their home on Birchleaf Drive in Raleigh on November 3, 2006.

Jason told investigators he was on a business trip in Virginia the night of the murder. Investigators said the killer left the Young's 2-year-old daughter Cassidy with her mother's corpse for hours and her small bloody footprints were tracked throughout the home.

Prosecutors contend the Youngs were having marital and financial problems and Jason was cheating on Michelle and wanted out of the marriage.

Two women have testified they were sexually involved with Jason in the months before Michelle's death, but the defense says Jason's infidelity does not make him a killer.

"Were you a good husband to Michelle?" asked defense attorney Mike Klinkosum right after Jason took the stand Wednesday.

"No sir, I was not," he answered.

Klinkosum asked him if he knew who killed Michelle.

"No sir, I do not," Young answered.

The prosecution claims Young left the Hampton Inn where he was staying in Hillsville, Virginia and returned to the Triangle to kill Michelle. Hotel workers testified a side door at the hotel was left propped open with a rock and a surveillance camera in the stairwell was unplugged.

Young said he did leave his room after he checked in around 10:30 p.m. He said he forgot the charger for his laptop computer and went out to his car to fetch it. He said he remembered that the door to his room didn't close properly, so he left it partially ajar. He also said he stuck a stick in the outside exit door so he could get back inside.

Young said closer to midnight, he went back to his car to smoke a cigar out the same exit. He explained he didn't have his key card with him and he propped the door again to get back inside.

But, Young denied he left his room after that and went to sleep. He said he woke up around 7 a.m.

Young contradicted testimony from a convenience store clerk who said he bought gasoline from her later that night. He said he was not there.

Young was also asked about testimony from a computer forensic expert who said she found evidence in a search of Young's laptop that someone had searched "the anatomy of a knockout," "head trauma" and "blackout."

Young said he was the first person who responded to a bad car accident earlier in 2006, and he was trying to understand what happened to an injured man he helped.

Earlier, Klinkosum also led Young through some of the other points raised by prosecutors. Young denied the assertion that the couple was having money problems.

"Financially, I felt like we were pretty well off for people our age," he said.

Young said that when Michelle became pregnant with their second child that her moodiness increased - as it had during her first pregnancy - and there were more arguments.

"I think we were both very passionate, very hardheaded, and we didn't want to give in," he said.

"Did you ever get physical with her?" asked Klinkosum.

"No sir, I did not," said Young.

When asked if he was happy about the pregnancy, he answered "absolutely."

"I was always pushing for another baby," he said.

Young said he was especially excited when he learned it was to be a boy.

Young said the couple considered marriage counseling, but he was hesitant because they had tried it in the past.

"It was not the best experience for me," said Young.

Instead, Young said they were working with Michelle's sister who had some counseling training.

"Were you interested in working on the issues in her marriage?" asked Klinkosum.

"Yes," Young responded.

Young denied he wanted a divorce or to get out of the marriage. He said he wanted to stay with Michelle and have even more children.

Klinkosum also asked Young about an in incident that his college fiancée Genevieve Cargol testified about earlier in the trial.

She said they had a physical fight in a Texas hotel room and that he threw her around and took their engagement ring off her finger - injuring her finger in the process.

Young said it wasn't as physical as Cargol said, but "I did pin her down and I took the ring," he said.

Young described the incident as "very, very wrong" and that "it ultimately led to the end of that relationship."

Young also admitted to having affairs with Carol Anne Sowerby and Michelle Money, but he said he knew it was wrong and he had no plans to leave Michelle.

Klinkosum asked Young about how he learned of Michelle's death. Young said after making some stops on his sales trip, he stopped at his mother's house in western North Carolina and his family told him.

"I just broke on the inside. I didn't believe it," said Young.

Young testified that his friends told him that police were asking strong questions and advised him not to speak with them without talking to a lawyer first. Young said he spoke with an attorney early the following week, who advised him not to talk to anyone about his wife's death. He said he followed that advice to the letter.

Klinkosum asked Young how his life has been affected by Michelle's death.

"I've lost everything," said Young. "I've lost family, friends, and jobs."

Young cross-examined

The prosecution got its chance to cross-examine Young in the afternoon session.

Prosecutor Rebecca Holt began by asking Young if he cheated on Michelle at the very beginning of their relationship.

Young admitted he did date another woman on the side.

Holt also asked Young about a trip to Puerto Rico when Michelle found another woman's underwear in his suitcase.

Young denied being unhappy when he learned Michelle was pregnant with their first child. Holt asked him if he tried to talk Michelle into getting an abortion.

Young said he did not.

Earlier, Young had testified that he had gone out to his car to smoke a cigar before going to bed at his hotel in Virginia. Holt pointed out that other witnesses had testified that he had a strong stance against smoking for years.

"I think cigarette smoking is very bad," Young responded.

Holt next took him back to his relationship with Genevieve Cargol. In addition to the incident where they struggled over the engagement ring, Holt asked if he got angry on a previous occasion and punched the windshield of her car hard enough to crack it.

Young said that did happen, but he denied another incident where Holt asked him if he got angry and punched a hole in the wall of his apartment.

Holt later challenged Young's assertion that he was working to fix problems in his marriage before Michelle died.

Were you working on your marriage when you were having sex with Carol Anne Sowerby in your own home two weeks before your wife was murdered?" asked Holt.

"No," Young responded.

Defense rests

After Young's testimony Wednesday, the defense rested its case. The prosecution then called one rebuttal witnesses.

Travis Branch - who delivers newspapers for the News and Observer of Raleigh - countered testimony from a woman who said she saw a mysterious van in the Young's driveway the night Michelle said she was murdered. Branch said he didn’t see anything suspicious.

Closing arguments set for Thursday

Judge Donald Stephens sent the jury home for the night after the last witness Wednesday. He said closing arguments would be held Thursday and each side could speak for up to two hours.

Juror sent home

Also Wednesday, one juror was sent home after she fell ill. The woman was replaced by an alternate. She's the second woman to be replaced. There are two more alternates.

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