Dateline   |  March 31, 2012

'Silent Witness', Part 1

In 2006, Michelle Young, pregnant with her second child, was brutally murdered while her husband Jason was away on business.  Who could have killed this beloved young mother? Dateline NBC's Keith Morrison reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome to "dateline," everyone. i'm lester holt . it's called a crime of passion , a murder motivated by hate or by love. this murder was so brutal at least one of the motives almost certainly had to be hate. but it was an act of love that finally brought a killer to justice. here's keith morrison .

>> i think i paused for a second. i had to take a deep breath. and just the reality of what going on sink in.

>> reporter: those who saw the footprints will not forget them. they were tiny, and they were bloody.

>> i had to get my composure to finish searching this house, to make sure there was nobody else in the house.

>> reporter: it was the 3rd of november 2006 , early afternoon. deputy scott irv of the wake county sheriff's department had been dispatched to a quiet and leafy neighborhoods called enchanted oaks in the outskirts of raleigh, north carolina , here because of the 911 call from this place on birch leaf drive.

>> i think my sister's dead.

>> tell me what happened, ma'am.

>> i have no idea. oh, my god.

>> reporter: the caller was meredith fisher. she had just discovered on the floor of the master bedroom the savagely beaten body of her elder sister, 29-year-old michelle young , a woman who, in death, was about to be famous.

>> listen to me, ma'am. i'm going to tell you what to do, but you need to calm down so we can help her. you said there's blood everywhere?

>> yes.

>> listen to me, ma'am. is she breathing/.

>> i don't think so.

>> have you checked?

>> michelle ? she's cold.

>> okay.

>> as she spoke, meredith was /2-year-old niece cassidy who had crawled out from the bed clothes on her parents' bed just feet from where her mother's body lay. cassidy 's voice was caught on the recorded call. had cassidy witnessed the murder? awakened, alone to find this?

>> you just picture a small child walking around in this blood and tracking it across the hallway over into the bathroom.

>> reporter: now wake county investigators were descending on the house. and, having secured the crime scene , irv's job was done. but on his way out, he saw cassidy again. she was still in her had pink pajamas , still in meredith 's arms. he asked meredith a question. i looked over the child, i didn't see any blood. i asked her, did you clean the child? and her response was no. i thought it was kind of odd because i was expecting her to say yes, i guess.

>> somebody did.

>> yeah, somebody did.

>> reporter: but who? was it the same person who murdered the little girl 's mother? on this november day, all they had were questions. sergeant richard spivey of the wake county sheriff's office probably knows the case better than anyone.

>> i mean, this was just a brutal, vicious beating. there was a lot of time and energy invested into this assault.

>> why do you say a lot of time and energy?

>> the medical examiner told us there were over 30 blows with some sort of a blunt object.

>> reporter: there were clues. investigators found two different sure prints near the body. were there two attackers? a jewelry box was missing, two drawers. was it a bungled burglary? they began working it hard, but they knew shoe prints and jewelry boxes could only tell them so much. they needed to investigate the victim as well. and everyone around her. michelle young was born and raised on long island, new york.

>> she was smiling all the time. and she was the life of the party .

>> reporter: stais a grossman knew her from childhood.

>> she didn't like to be center of attention but created a good atmosphere.

>> reporter: michelle was a cheerleader in high school and a straight a student. jennifer powers felt drawn to her.

>> she had this kind of bookworm type to her where she was very studious and goal-oriented. she was also just a great person to be around, a fun, happy spirit, you know, someone that i wanted to spend a lot of time with.

>> reporter: lots of people did. and, when she chose a college far from home , north carolina state , she was soon surrounded again by an admiring group of women friends, best friends , buddies. fiona child was her sorority big sister .

>> there's this one picture, and it's like it just came out beautiful and we liked it because we thought we kind of looked like "charlie's angels" posed without intentional lly dog that.

>> reporter: it was smaun in 2001 when friends started hearing about michelle 's new guy, a fellow student named jason young , heard how he had grown up in the north carolina mountains, how he loved to camp, how he was the life of tailgate parties. michelle fell hard and fast.

>> they seemed like a good couple. he was different from other men she had dated in the past. he wasn't as serious about a s. he was a little bit less sophisticated than michelle was. but she seemed to be very happy with him.

>> reporter: michelle and jason married in october 2003 . the day after the wedding, they shared their big secret. michelle was pregnant. their daughter cassidy was born early the next year.

>> i love you, mommy.

>> i love you, too, cassidy . twinkle twinkle little star

>> reporter: and when she came along, it was love at first sight . how i wonder what you are

>> reporter: michelle was an enthusiastic mother.

>> huh?

>> huh?

>> reporter: by all accounts, jason was a good dad.

>> he was a great playmate. he knew how to sit on the floor and play with his daughter, you know.

>> reporter: the youngs moved into the big, fine house on 05. both of themt worked, he a salesman, she a financial specialist. in the summer of 2006 , michelle got pregnant again. they kept the news to themselves, but it was clear something good was happening.

>> the comment he said to me was he's excited to have another baby, not implying she was pregnant but he was excited at the prospect of it.

>> reporter: but just a few months later, michelle was dead. jason was 170 miles away in virginia on a business trip the night of the murder. he heard the news the next afternoon and returned to raleigh. fiona got word from a girlfriend.

>> she said, fi, michelle 's dead. and it -- it was like it wasn't registering what she said. it was like what?

>> reporter: stacia grossman couldn't take it in either.

>> my mother called and said, michelle 's dead. i said, michelle who? some celebrity? like what are you talking about, like what do you mean? how is that possible? what happened?

>> reporter: the very questions that wake county investigators were asking themselves.

>> when we come back, a security camera provides a critical clue. it's not what it caught on tape. it's what it missed and why.

>> there was a camera there that had been unplugged.

>> who had something to hide?