CARBONDALE — The county’s top prosecutor says there isn’t enough evidence to prove whether Molly Young’s death last year in a Carbondale Police Department dispatcher’s apartment was suicide or homicide, although he says the Illinois State Police “erroneously” stated that the case had been closed and that his office never authorized such a statement.
At the same time, Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr challenged widespread assertions that the dispatcher, Richie Minton, had been “allowed” by CPD officials to wash his hands at the scene of Young’s death before going to the police department for questioning — a notion that surfaces in documents related to the investigation, although Carr says there is no evidence that points to ill intent.
At a press conference Monday afternoon at the Illinois State Police headquarters in Du Quoin, Carr said his review of the case found that no law enforcement agencies had mishandled the investigation into 21-year-old Young’s death, but he was left without enough evidence to prove a murder had occurred. He also said that “compelling, though not conclusive evidence” that Young may have taken her own life made trying a case difficult.
“After a review of the evidence it was jointly determined that although questions remain, there was insufficient, admissible evidence to establish that Miss Young’s death was the result of homicide,” Carr said. “There is compelling, though not conclusive, evidence that her death was self-inflicted. It was also determined that there was no forensic or physical evidence to preclude the possibility of a self-inflicted death or to conclusively support the possibility of a homicidal death.”
Earlier this summer, the Illinois State Police responded to multiple requests under the Freedom of Information Act by saying that the Young case had been closed and that Carr’s office had declined to pursue charges. On July 31, Carr issued a statement to the Times saying that he would consider any further evidence brought to his attention. At Monday’s press conference, Carr reiterated that notion, saying he never reviewed the ISP statement saying the case was closed and that “it is not accurate.”
The case has drawn an increasingly national profile in the past week, and Carr’s comments Monday came just two days after Young’s father, Larry Young, appeared on “Good Morning America” to allege that police had “botched” the investigation into what he says was a murder. The growing Facebook group Justice for Molly also has become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, and the story has been featured heavily this week on Headline News programs.
Minton, a dispatcher for the Carbondale Police Department at the time of the incident, told first responders that morning that he slept through the gunshot. Minton and his roommate first reported Young’s death several hours after the fact in a 911 call initially identifying the death as the result of an overdose.
Investigators were unable to identify any fingerprints on the .45-caliber pistol belonging to Minton that fired the shot, and they found no signs of gunshot residue on the hands of Minton or Young. ISP records say that Carbondale Police, the first responders to the scene, allowed Minton to change his clothes and wash his hands before going to the police department for questioning. Police that morning also found a pair of scratches on Minton’s back, which he said he must have sustained while administering CPR to Young.
In January, a coroner’s jury heard evidence from ISP, as well as a detailed account of Young’s journals and an undated suicide letter. Investigators also discussed a series of text messages sent from Young’s phone detailing attempts to overdose on pills. The jury ultimately ruled the nature of her death undetermined due to a lack of evidence. Carr said he and his prosecutors found the content of those journals impossible to ignore.
“Even though I cannot conclusively determine the manner and means of Miss Young’s death exclusively by this type of evidence, as a prosecutor, I can and have weighed the likely impact that such evidence would have on my ability to successfully prosecute, or for that matter to even charge, a homicide at this point,” Carr said Monday. “I want to emphasize that I am not finding from this evidence that this death was a suicide or that it was not. I just cannot ignore reasonable possibilities or the presumption of innocence.”
Questioned by the Times about reports that police personnel had allowed Minton special latitudes when they responded to his apartment, Carr said he found no evidence that police had “allowed or intentionally allowed” anything of the sort.
“My understanding of the reports is that that was not allowed by the police officers but that he did (wash his hands),” Carr said.
He also defended his decision not to defer the case to a special prosecutor, saying he was elected to handle cases in Jackson County.
“I feel like I have the ability, maybe better than anybody that you know, to handle cases like this, and why should I walk away from a case … that I want to have resolution about when I have the experience to be able to handle that case,” Carr said.
During this week's press conference, State’s Attorney Michael Carr said there was no evidence that police intentionally allowed Richie Minton to wash his hands when they arrived at his apartment March 24, 2012. He says the following document in Illinois State Police records “is not a report of what happened but notes based upon a phone conversation [an ISP forensic scientist] had with a detective who has told me that he did not mean to convey this interpretation when he was talking to the forensic scientist. [The detective] used the phrase ‘allowed’ in the context that it happened before the ISP got there."
A Carbondale Police report details the moment when Minton asked if he could change his clothes.