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Prosecutor says Ryan Young plotted to kill mother

NEW PORT RICHEY — Donna Young died in her bed with her pillow over her face.

What happened?

Authorities say Ryan Young, 26, her only child, went into her New Port Richey home one night in April 2007 and smothered her, then tried to make it look like a burglary turned deadly. This week he's on trial, at the West Pasco Judicial Center, not 4 miles from where his mother used to live. The charge is first-degree murder and the possible punishment is life in prison.

Attorneys picked a jury on Tuesday. On Wednesday, jurors heard opening statements from attorneys on both sides and testimony from 12 state's witnesses, watched a video of the crime scene and listened to recordings of the 911 call and parts of Young's interviews with Pasco sheriff's detectives.

The trial continues on Thursday.

A verdict is expected on Friday.

On Wednesday morning, Mike Halkitis, the prosecutor, told jurors in his 36-minute opening statement that he was going to prove not only that Young killed his mother but that he meant to do it. The more Young talked to detectives, Halkitis said, the more his story changed before he said he "didn't mean to do it."

The prosecutor also suggested some possible motives.

"The defendant," Halkitis said, "came to his mom's house that night with one intent."

Dean Livermore, Young's attorney, gave his own, shorter opening statement, telling jurors that there was no physical evidence that indicated with certainty that Young was the one who caused his mother's death.

"There's no proof," he said.

Here are some things jurors learned Wednesday about Donna Young:

She was 52. She was divorced. She had multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair to get around.

She still kept a tidy home.

She still worked, at Parkwood Medical in Port Richey, and was a reliable, punctual employee in a part-time position that paid her $8.50 an hour.

She was a devout Catholic.

And here are some things jurors learned about Ryan Young:

He was married in 2005. He wasn't married long because he split from his wife and told her and others he was gay.

His mother didn't like his lifestyle. He knew that.

He was having money troubles in 2006. He had credit card debt, his Nissan pickup was repossessed, and twice in early 2007 he pawned some of his mother's jewelry for a total of $630. There are receipts.

Jurors learned, too, that Donna Young's will said Ryan Young was to get everything if she died.

Also: that a white sedan — the kind of car Ryan Young was driving at the time — showed up near Donna Young's home shortly after 2 a.m. the night before she was found dead, and left an hour later. A surveillance camera at the community clubhouse caught that.

Jurors also heard from the emergency medical workers, detectives, deputies and the crime scene investigators who were the first to get to Donna Young's two-bedroom, corner-lot home in the Oaks at River Ridge subdivision.

All of those people noticed many of the same things.

A screen was cut near the rear of the home. A purse in the kitchen had been spilled onto the counter. Some drawers were open in the bedroom and the computer room. But nothing was taken. The place wasn't ransacked. There was no sign of struggle.

Then there was Donna Young.

She was cold and stiff. She had been dead for a while. Jurors could see that on the video. She was in bed, flat on her back, hands at her sides, covers pulled to her chest. She was wearing a light-blue nightgown. Her eyes were closed. Her mouth was not.

Detective Dean Quinlan and Ryan Young sat in an unmarked cruiser outside the home not long after that. Quinlan asked him if he knew of anybody who would want to hurt his mother.

"That's what I don't understand," Young said. "She was, like, the sweetest person in the world.

"Everyone loved her."

Quinlan said okay.

But then he said: "I'll probably be talking to you again."

Michael Kruse can be reached at and (727) 869-6244.

Prosecutor says Ryan Young plotted to kill mother 01/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 10:01pm]
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