NEW PORT RICHEY — The most incriminating pieces of evidence in the state's case against Ryan Young are his own recorded words.
"I didn't mean to."
"I was happy she was dead."
Day 3 of this west Pasco matricide trial was a lesson on why it's wise to take advantage of your constitutional right to keep quiet.
Young, 26, of Port Richey, is accused of killing his mother. He allegedly smothered Donna Young with her pillow in April 2007 in her New Port Richey home. He was her only child. She was 52.
The case in court started this week with jury selection on Tuesday. Over the last two days, prosecutor Mike Halkitis called 21 witnesses, and Young's attorney, public defender Dean Livermore, called two.
Halkitis and Livermore will make their closing arguments this morning.
Then it's up to the jury. Young faces life in prison if he's convicted.
Donna Young was divorced, had multiple sclerosis and lived alone. The state says her son tried to make a murder look like a burglary gone wrong, opening drawers, cutting a window screen and emptying her purse onto the kitchen counter. Halkitis suggested in his opening statement on Wednesday that Young was having money problems and hated his mother because she was disappointed that he was gay.
The defense? There's no conclusive physical evidence that he did it.
Jurors heard some important things over the last two days:
1. Young was married in 2005 but split up with his wife less than a year later. He admitted he was gay. His mother was Catholic and didn't like that.
2. A surveillance camera near Donna Young's home caught blurry images of a white sedan pulling up around 2 a.m. and then pulling away an hour later the night before Ryan Young called 911 to say he'd found his mother dead in her bed. Young was driving a white Toyota Avalon at the time.
3. Young's roommate said on the stand she heard him in her house sometime after 2 that night. This is a possible alibi.
4. Young's ex-wife said he talked to her about his mother's will and how he would get all her assets when she died.
5. A DNA expert testified that a mixture of DNA was found on Donna Young's pillow. Some of it was her DNA. Some of it could have been Ryan Young's DNA, the expert said, but she couldn't be 100 percent sure.
The most compelling part of the testimony, though, was the tape of Pasco detective Dean Quinlan's interviews with Young.
They started talking soon after the 911 call.
Young wasn't under arrest. He didn't have to talk.
First he told the detective that he didn't know anything. Then he said he came into her house and saw her dead and then opened the drawers to look for her diamond ring to make sure no one had stolen it. Then: He was looking for it to take it and pawn it.
The two of them talked more later that afternoon, for more than two hours, at the sheriff's office.
"I know you want to tell me the truth," Quinlan told Young, "because I know you're that type of person."
Quinlan also told him many times that he didn't believe him.
"Honestly," Young said, "I would like to stop for the day."
"As long as we're almost done," Young said.
Quinlan reminded him he wasn't being forced to talk. He read him his rights. Young signed a form waiving them.
First he told the detective he didn't put the pillow on his mother's face and said it was like that when he got to the house. Then he said he put it there because he didn't want to see her dead. Then he said he put it there and pressed down because he was angry at her about her disappointment in his homosexuality.
"Cry if you need to, Ryan," Quinlan said. "Let it out."
"I'm done," Young said. He said that more than once.
"I want to go home," he said. He said that, too, more than once.
Still, though, more talking.
Finally, near the end of an interview that went on for 120 minutes and 13 seconds, Young said that if he did kill his mother, he didn't mean to.
"Thanks," Quinlan told Young, "for talking to me, all right?"
Michael Kruse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727) 869-6244.