A Colorado Springs man on trial for first-degree murder took the stand Tuesday and tearfully recounted finding his wife lifeless on the kitchen floor hours after the couple drunkenly quarreled in their northeast side home.
Even as Fredrick Stanley Young Jr., 44, wiped at tears in court, a prosecutor assailed his claim that he accidentally strangled Jennifer Young, 39, while warding off an attack by her — implying that the 6-foot-2 bodybuilder and dump truck operator knew what he was doing when he placed the woman in a chokehold and squeezed until she went limp.
Afterward, authorities say, Fredrick Young covered her body with a blanket and went upstairs to bed, though Young says he thought she was sleeping.
During more than three hours of testimony, the defendant cast himself as the victim of a vicious assault and told the jury he heard his wife snoring after she collapsed. Not until he woke several hours later and found her cold to the touch and not breathing did he realize she was dead, he said.
“Why didn’t you call 911?” prosecutor Thom LeDoux shot back, in what became a refrain of his attack on the defendant’s account.
“I don’t know,” Young replied in a soft voice. “At that point I felt like I just wanted to kill myself.”
The defendant’s trial began June 3 and is expected to go to the jury for deliberations Thursday, at the conclusion of closing statements. If convicted of first-degree murder, Young will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors scoffed at the defendant's claim he didn't know the woman was dead, pointing out that a coroner testified she would have had to have been choked even after she passed out and that her hair was matted in blood that also spattered the wall.
Public defender Kim Chalmers has said in court that Fred Young did not intend to kill his wife nor was “practically certain” that his conduct would lead to her death, which are the elements of first- and second-degree murder. The strategy appears tilted at steering the panel toward a lower conviction, such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, which carry significantly lighter penalties.
People convicted of manslaughter normally face two to six years in prison, and criminally negligent homicide is generally punished by up to one to three years in prison.
The case comes after a string of high-profile deaths highlighting the urgency of the Pikes Peak region's struggle with domestic violence, which accounted for more than a quarter of the record 39 homicides in Colorado Springs last year. This year’s death toll ratcheted up May 6 when a gunman stormed a birthday party on the city's east side, killing six people including his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself. It was the city's deadliest killing on record and the worst attack in Colorado since a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder grocery story on March 22 before he was taken into custody.
According to trial testimony, Young went to the El Paso County jail to report his wife’s death Oct. 20, 2019, hours after waking. When authorities arrived, her body was still lying face down in the couple’s kitchen at 6040 Bow River Drive, near Dublin and Powers boulevards. There was no evidence Young turned her over to check on her, nor that he made any attempt to revive her, authorities say.
“I’ve never been trained in CPR so I wouldn’t know how to do it,” the defendant said in defending his actions.
Wearing a blue suit and paisley necktie with a shaved head and goatee, Fredrick Young claimed Jennifer Young attacked him after they arrived home together from a night of drinking that began with a friend’s wedding reception.
The defendant said she punched him in the back of the head, opening a wound that bled profusely; pushed him into a television hard enough to shatter the screen and push a speaker partially through the drywall; and lunged at him in their kitchen, leading him to counter with a chokehold.
Authorities say Fredrick Young had showed signs of jealousy at the wedding party, but the defendant denied it.
Home-security footage of their arrival home after the wedding captured part of their drunken dispute, including Jennifer Young’s angry utterance that she intended to seek a divorce. Fred Young said on the stand that the comment didn’t make him angry.
The defendant has a prior conviction for distribution of cocaine, a felony, from 2008 but had no history of violence, court records show.