Was Ryan Young really the spoilt, money-grabbing son prosecutors made out?
Donna Young, 52, doted on her only child, did everything for him.
She suffered from multiple sclerosis. When told by doctors she risked making her condition worse if she had a baby, she hadn’t let it put her off.
Ryan was born in December 1982. Donna cherished him.
She split from his dad in 1994 and raised him alone, working at a medical supply company to pay the bills.
Donna earned enough to send Ryan to a good school, buy him a car when he was old enough to drive…
There was nothing she wouldn’t do for her boy.
But in April 2007, Ryan found his mum dead at home in Pasco County, Florida.
The house was a mess and he believed she’d been killed in a break-in gone wrong.
Devastated, he phoned 911 and the operator told him to perform CPR.
But Ryan refused.
‘She’s already dead,’ he simply told the operator.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Donna in bed with a pillow over her face.
It looked like she’d been suffocated as she slept.
But if Donna had been sleeping, she was no threat to a burglar. So why would they want to hurt her?
Investigators smelled a rat.
Soon, Ryan was arrested, charged with murdering his mum.
But he denied he’d had anything to do with it, claimed he loved his mother, would never do anything to hurt her.
In January 2009, Ryan Young, then 26, went on trial.
Prosecutors believed Ryan had gone to his mother’s house to steal a diamond ring to pawn.
That he’d held a pillow over her face for several minutes until she was dead.
Then he’d staged the burglary to cover up his wicked crime.
A handbag in the kitchen had been spilled onto the work surface. Some drawers were open in the bedroom and the computer room.
But nothing was taken.
According to police interviews, Ryan admitted he’d staged the burglary.
And, apparently, he’d only gone looking for the diamond ring to make sure it hadn’t been stolen.
But he was still adamant he hadn’t hurt his mother. He claimed when he arrived at her home, he thought she was dead.
It was too upsetting for him to look at her, he said, so he’d put the pillow over her face.
He denied hurting her and said, ‘If I did, I didn’t mean to.’
Had Ryan Young panicked when he’d found his mother dead? Did he stage the burglary just because he was worried the finger would be pointed at him?
It seemed Ryan and his mother did have a close relationship. For his wedding in 2005, she’d made a promise to walk down the aisle.
Strong and determined, she’d done just that. Ditching her wheelchair, she’d made strong strides towards her son.
She’d even danced with him at the reception.
It didn’t make sense that, just two years later, Ryan would want to kill her. Or did it?
Prosecutors painted a very different picture…
They portrayed Ryan as a money-grabbing, spoilt man, arguing that Donna had given her son everything in life but it was never enough for him.
Just months after his wedding, Ryan Young and his wife split up.
And Ryan admitted he was gay.
A devout Catholic, Donna didn’t approve. Prosecutors believed it’d caused tension between the pair.
Despite this, Donna still continued to help her son, paying his bills and giving him money.
Prosecutors argued Ryan wanted more, though.
He stood to inherit his mother’s estate when she died. And, according to his ex-wife, he often spoke about her will.
Had he been plotting to bump off his mum so he could have her money? Was he spurred on by recent tension over his sexuality?
According to police, Ryan had told them, ‘I was happy she was dead.’
Donna’s housekeeper also testified against Ryan.
She claimed that on the Friday before Donna died, she’d found a puddle of oil on the tiled floor.
Only Ryan was home at the time, but he apparently told her he’d not seen the oil.
Had he poured it there so that when his mother returned, her walker would’ve slipped and she’d have fallen?
Something else that prosecutors found odd about Ryan’s story was his claim that he’d arrived at the house after 11am.
A surveillance camera near Donna’s home had caught blurry images of a white car pulling up at 2am, then pulling away an hour later…
Ryan drove a white car at the time.
When police had arrived later that morning, Donna had been dead for a few hours.
Had her son killed her at 2am, then returned later to call 911?
Ryan’s defence argued there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest he’d killed his mother.
And there was no proof the white car on the CCTV was his.
So, who was right?
Had Ryan Young really killed his own mother to inherit her money? Or was he innocent – caught up in a web of lies that made it look like he was to blame?
That decision would lay with the jury…
It took the jury five hours to find Ryan Young guilty of first-degree murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
Once driven by his own greed and always wanting more, Young was now left with nothing.
Outside the court, Donna’s sister Janet Crouse said, ‘Ryan has a black hole where the rest of us have a beating heart.’