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Molly Young FOIA fight continues

Geoffrey Ritter
Carbondale Times

Despite recent letters from the Attorney General’s Office directing police to provide records related to Molly Young’s 2012 death to her father, law enforcement agencies have made little to no progress toward actually doing so.

In a non-binding opinion sent late last month, the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau said Carbondale Police incorrectly asserted exemptions in denying some records requested by Larry Young regarding his daughter, who was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head in the apartment of a then-Carbondale Police dispatcher.

Larry Young obtained a similar letter in late June regarding records in the possession of the Illinois State Police, but Young said Tuesday he has received no follow-up information from either agency in the time since.

Young said the State Police have failed to reply to certified letters he subsequently has sent regarding the case, and he said he has filed new Freedom of Information Act requests with both agencies. He admitted to being surprised that he received no response from them even after the Attorney General’s Office’s non-binding directives.

“Why is there such a deceitful, lying atmosphere among the people in charge of this case?” Young asked Tuesday. “There’s got to be something they’re hiding that they don’t want me to know, that they don’t want the public to know.”

Molly Young, 21 at the time, was found dead from a bullet wound to the head in the Carbondale apartment of Richie Minton, at the time a dispatcher at the Carbondale Police Department. While text messages sent from Young’s phone that night indicated possibly suicidal intentions, other details in the case have given rise to a host of other questions and theories.

Young’s family has pointed to, among other things, the lack of fingerprints on the gun and the downward trajectory of the bullet, which the right-handed Young likely would have to have fired with her left hand. 

In the time since, Minton has declined to speak with police about the case despite being named as a suspect in early State Police documents.

In 2013, an inquest jury was presented with the choices of suicide or homicide and ruled the nature of Young’s death undetermined.

Larry Young initially received documentation concerning his daughter from Carbondale Police in 2013, but he filed another Freedom of Information Act request in January 2014 seeking documents, including graphic photographs, that he alleged were improperly withheld on the supposed basis of privacy. He appealed the subsequent denial to the Attorney General.

The AG’s final letter in response to that appeal, dated July 24, describes the Carbondale Police Department and assistant city attorney Lenoard “Jamie” Snyder as having been generally unresponsive during the duration of Larry Young’s FOIA appeal process. The letter also says the department denied Young’s request by improperly claiming FOIA exemptions based on a supposed ongoing investigation and classifying Young’s request as “unduly burdensome.”

Reached Tuesday morning, Snyder said he could not comment on any aspect of the case without authorization from City Manager Kevin Baity, who is out of town this week on private family business. 

Interim Carbondale Police Chief Jeff Grubbs said the department is waiting on direction from the Office of the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor — the same special prosecutor that concluded a review of the Young case late last year at the request of Jackson County State’s Attorney Mike Carr. 

The office, which apparently is still the prosecutor of record on the case, determined last year that not enough evidence existed to prosecute anyone in Young’s death, but that the case would remain open, largely upholding a similar stance from Carr’s office.

Grubbs said Tuesday he could not speak to anything specific he has done during his year as interim chief to move Larry Young’s FOIA case along or facilitate any sort of resolution to the family’s grievances against the Police Department. 

Grubbs did say he intends to provide Larry Young with the documents he is seeking “the minute we receive direction” from the Office of the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor.

“It is my intent to get Larry Young the records he is seeking,” Grubbs said.

The Illinois State Police cite a similar situation. Attorney Aaron Harris with the State Police said his agency is “at a standstill” while waiting for an opinion from the special prosecutor’s office, which is determining what information in the Young case, if any, would jeopardize any future attempt to prosecute a criminal case. 

“We’re not trying to hide the information, but right now, we’re giving everything to the appellate prosecutor,” Harris said. “They’re going to look into all the information.”

Harris acknowledged that the information is not yet at the appellate prosecutor’s office. 

“It’s coming to them,” Harris said. Harris didn’t say whether information already had been sent.

Patrick Delfino, director of the Special Prosecution Unit of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed Tuesday that his office would hold a meeting “next week” to discuss the case and what documents can be disclosed. Delfino declined to speak further on the record.

Sidewalk project underway on Route 13

Carbondale Times

A project to build a new bike and pedestrian path along East Main Street near University Mall recently got underway and is expected to end this fall.

The joint project between the city and the Illinois Department of Transportation will see the installation of a sidewalk and bike path starting on Lewis Lane near Fazoli’s and crossing Rt. 13 south to Applebee’s. The path then will run east along East Main Street to Giant City Road.

The project, which also includes the installation of pedestrian signals at McKinney Avenue at the intersection in front of University Mall, is expected to be completed in October.

“We applied for and received funding through an IDOT safety program,” City Manager Kevin Baity said. “Part of our justification were the number of mid-block pedestrian crossings.”

Baity said the 2012 death of a man in a wheelchair at the intersection of East Main Street and McKinney Avenue also played a role in securing funding for the project.

A similar project also is scheduled on the west side of Carbondale between Emerald Lane and Murphysboro Road on the south side of West Main Street. That project, which also will include a bridge over Little Crab Orchard Creek, could be completed next spring, Baity said.