The True Story of the Michelle Young Murder Case
To the outside world, Jason and Michelle Young lived a storybook life—an attractive couple with great jobs, a beautiful home, a precocious two-year-old daughter, and a baby boy on the way.
Soon after the 29-year-old pregnant mother’s brutally beaten body was discovered on their bedroom floor, a very different picture emerged. Of a marriage crumbling at its foundation. Of a meddlesome New York mother-in-law whose running critique left Jason frustrated and angry. Of a 32-year-old man who behaved like a frat boy rebelling against adult responsibilities.
MURDER ON BIRCHLEAF DRIVE documents the gripping tale of a family’s marathon quest for justice, confounding crime scene evidence, persistence of law enforcement officers, and riveting courtroom combat.
Why I wrote this book
Like Michelle Young, I grew up on Long Island, graduating from Oceanside High School in 1983. Like her, I migrated South to attend college--at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although I didn't know Michelle, at the time of her death, I was working for a law firm in a building right next door to the Progress Energy building in which she worked. The associate attorney I worked most closely with lived in Michelle's neighborhood. Our life's journeys had much in common. That connected me to this story.
Like many, I was drawn to the news coverage surrounding the murder of this pregnant woman--whose toddler was found unharmed in her home, amidst the bloody crime scene. As a lawyer who at one time wanted to be a prosecutor, I found the criminal investigation and prosecution theories fascinating. There was so much conflicting and confounding circumstantial evidence. There was compelling human drama. I recall watching Jason Young's testimony on the WRAL News live stream of the first trial, riveted to his words and demeanor as if I had been sitting in the jury box. I also watched Bryan Collins' closing argument on my computer. I was captivated by the courtroom drama and theatrics.
As a law student, I spent part of the summer of 1988 working for Tharrington Smith, where Bryan Collins was a young associate, and where Roger Smith, Jr., Alice Stubbs, and even Howard Cummings would eventually work. During my career as a civil litigator, I had appeared before Judge Donald W. Stephens many times--and had been a recipient of "the look" on more than one occasion. Thus, my own career was connected in several ways to this story.
But none of this truly explains why I decided to take on this project. Ultimately, I did it for two reasons: First, I believed strongly this is a story that needed to be told---a story that would interest and fascinate a much larger audience than those in the Raleigh area who consumed the daily news coverage of the case as I did. Second, I had reached a point in my life in which I wanted to challenge myself. To do something out of the box. To get outside my own comfort zone. To be willing to fail. Call it a midlife crisis if you will. Not one that would be fulfilled by a fancy new sports car, however. Working on this book fulfilled some type of desire I had apparently been keeping at bay for some time. I'm glad I challenged myself to do this and am very satisfied with the end result. And the feeling of achievement that comes with seeing one's work in print.