Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa boy, 12, found not guilty of murder in infant's death

MARIETTA, Ga. — The 12-year-old Tampa boy sat in the Cobb County Juvenile Courthouse Friday morning, still an accused baby murderer. A few hours later, he chomped on potato chips and Skittles and asked to go to the all-you-can-eat buffet at Golden Corral. He told his family he had plans for his future.

"I want to be a judge," he said. "I want to go to Harvard."

This announcement came after one made by Judge A. Gregory Poole: The boy was not guilty of murder and child cruelty in the July death of his 5-week-old cousin, Millan Young. He was guilty of a lesser offense, two counts of battery, which could carry a two-year sentence, served either in a detention center, a group home, or as probation while living with family. The sentence will come with counseling.

The judge will decide it on Jan. 6.

Had the boy been convicted of murder, he would have faced nine years in detention.

As they prepared to leave the courthouse, the boy's grandmother wrapped him in a tight hug and told him, "See how God delivered you?"

He responded, "Yes, ma'am."

• • •

For three days, lawyers tried to convince a judge of what they thought happened inside a parked car on July 4.

The boy, his name kept secret by court order, was visiting relatives near Atlanta when he got into a car with his mother's 22-year-old first cousin Brittiany Young and her infant daughter. Young stopped at Target to get food and left the car running.

When she returned, she testified, the boy was playing on his cell phone. The radio was turned up. And the baby's mouth was swollen. Her lips were blue. Her eyes were hard to the touch. She was limp and not breathing. The baby died the following day.

Three doctors testified about the child's injuries: two types of brain hemorrhages, retinal hemorrhages, unrelated fractures on opposite sides of her head, and bruising of the mouth and other parts of her body. Tissue on her upper lip was bruised, something that happens when babies are force-fed.

They said the injuries weren't accidental but couldn't determine who caused them. The medical examiner called it a homicide, finding that the child must have been held firmly, shaken and slammed at least twice against a hard, flat surface.

Crime lab tests found no physical evidence in the car. Prosecutors had testimony that the baby was acting normally before the mother left the car and was unresponsive when she returned.

In closing statements Friday, defense attorney Derek Wright tried to convince the judge that prosecutors didn't prove the boy was the murderer. He said he could make a case against the baby's mother, noting that several emergency responders said Young was acting unusually calm when they arrived, but that the boy was sobbing and pacing. He suggested the possibility that the baby was injured at the mother's home minutes away but didn't show signs of trauma until the parking lot.

The baby's mother sat in the courtroom on a bench closest to the door. She stared ahead with tears in her eyes as Wright said she could have let her cousin take the blame.

Prosecutor Eleanor Odom argued that the baby's mother didn't appear distraught because she didn't yet know the extent of the baby's injuries, but that the boy already did.

Odom took a blood-stained, pink onesie out of an evidence bag and showed it to the judge.

"You can see the size, how big Millan really was," Odom said. "I think this speaks more words than those pictures ever could."

Dressed in a shirt and tie, the skinny, dimpled boy stayed calm as the judge delivered his verdict: "I find beyond a reasonable doubt that Millan suffered major trauma during the 18 minutes the juvenile was alone with the baby. … I find that the juvenile caused the injuries and that the baby later died as a result of the trauma.

"Now, what do I think happened? This child was left alone with the baby. I don't know that should have happened, but it did …

"Millan, a child he really didn't know, started crying, and it got louder …

"He didn't know what to do. I think he was scared. He tried using the pacifier to make this baby stop crying. It didn't work. What did he do next?

"He got out the bottle of water … He gives it to the baby. The baby won't be quiet. Turns up the radio so he won't have to hear this baby crying. That didn't work. He might have even turned it up again. Well, the pink pacifier didn't work. Let's use the purple pacifier …

"This juvenile was trying to get the baby to quit crying. … He was scared, and he didn't know what to do. … I wouldn't expect him to know what to do.

"I find that in order to get the baby to be quiet, using his own means as a 12-year-old, that he committed batteries, plural, against this baby …

"Did this child mean that his actions would kill Millan? No …

"Technically, I think I can find possibly if I wanted to go further, some type of an involuntary manslaughter. In my mind, I've still got to place this child with some expectation, some appreciation for the horrific damage that it has done, and I find nothing along those lines.

"Did he do wrong? Oh yeah, he did. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did."

Once the judge stopped talking, the boy started to cry. His parents embraced him, also in tears. His mother smiled.

The baby's mother left the courtroom after the verdict and declined to comment. The boy's grandmother said the family planned to gather at Brittiany Young's home later that day.

The judge needed to decide where the boy would stay until the sentencing. He was originally locked up in a juvenile detention center, but later transferred to a secured group home.

A representative from the group home told the judge the boy had a tough transition into his school and, due to the stresses of his case, sometimes shut down emotionally. But he said the boy was a role model and standout student.

The judge allowed him to return to the group home and said he was welcome to visit with family. He told the boy his behavior in the next month will be important in deciding a sentence. The boy promised to be good.

Then, the boy's attorney told the family, "Y'all go breathe."

• • •

The boy's grandmother, Joyce Hightower, couldn't sleep Thursday night. She'd driven from Tampa earlier that day and spent the night reading news about the case and praying.

Now, holding her grandson's hand, she asked him how he felt.

"Good," he told her. "Anxious."

"Anxious for what?" she asked.

He said, "To go home."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 310-2081.

Tampa boy, 12, found not guilty of murder in infant's death 12/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 8:49am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  3. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  4. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]