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Victim's family fights for custody

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RALEIGH -- The mother and sister of murder victim Michelle Young are fighting for temporary custody of Young's daughter, four-year-old Cassidy Young who currently lives with her father, Jason Young in western North Carolina.

Michelle's body was found strangled and beaten to death two years ago in the couple's Wake County home. Jason Young has been the focus of the investigation.

He has never been charged criminally in connection to Michelle’s murder, but earlier this month, a Wake County judge ruled in a civil wrongful death lawsuit that Jason killed her.

“In North Carolina, parents have a constitutionally protected right to the care, custody, and control of their children,” Nicole Taylor, a family law attorney who is not associated with the Young custody case, said.

Taylor said she believes the custody case puts Jason Young in a difficult position.

“It is a very precarious position for him,” she said. “It's a real tight rope to be walking because if he does answer questions, whatever he says can be used against him in a criminal investigation, and ultimately a trial if he's charged.”

In the child custody complaint, Michelle Young's family claimed Jason Young has not maintained stable employment since his wife's death, saying, “he is currently unemployed and has generated little or no income."

The filing also said Jason Young "relies primarily on family members to care for Cassidy Young instead of providing such care himself."

Michelle Young’s family also claimed Jason Young has only allowed limited contact between them and the child, saying he has "consistently denied telephone and personal contact." They complained that even gifts they’ve sent to her, "including all Christmas presents ... have been returned, unopened."

In Taylor’s expert opinion, the biggest thing working against Jason Young at this point is his failure to respond to the wrongful death lawsuit earlier this month, which resulted in the civil court declaring him his wife's killer.

“That, in my opinion, would be enough for the district court judge to find he's acted inconsistent with his parental rights or is obviously unfit to continue custody of the child,” she said.

Jason Young now has 30 days to respond to the child custody complaint. If he does not respond to this filing, Taylor predicts the case will likely go on without him, with the judge basing her ruling on testimony from Michelle Young's family and their witnesses.

The case will go to court February 4.

The judge assigned in this case is the same judge who awarded custody of murdered Cary mother Nancy Cooper's children to her family instead of letting them stay with their father, Brad Cooper.

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