Family members of Jack Young testified on his behalf Friday, telling a packed courtroom in Uvalde that they were very sorry he killed 13 people and seriously injured another person when he crashed his pickup truck into their church bus on an isolated stretch of Highway 83.
The violent and deadly crash happened March 29, 2017, as members of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels were returning from a retreat in the Concan area.
Young admitted that he had smoked marijuana in the early morning hours before the crash and that he had taken more than the recommended dosage of a prescribed medication.
Family members who spoke on his behalf told Judge Camile DuBose that Young’s behavior was due to severe mental health issues caused by childhood trauma.
Taking the stand on the third day of the sentencing hearing, Young’s mother, Lori Davis, cried as she told family members of those who were lost how deeply sorry she was for her role in the events leading up to the tragedy.
Davis told the court “I know in my heart I feel 100 percent responsible. As a parent I failed my son. I wasn’t there for him because of my illness.”
Admitting to a history that included drug and alcohol abuse, Davis said “I wallowed in it and I didn’t think of the consequences for my son and daughter.”
Davis told the judge that because of her addictions, she left Young behind and moved to Fort Worth, leaving him to spend his early years being shuffled between caregivers.
“I beg of you, find it in your heart to forgive him, find understanding and compassion,” Davis said.
Young’s father Ben told the family members of the dead “I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart. I pray every night. I ask God every night to take your suffering and have peace in your heart.”
Choking with emotion, Young said “I am very, very sorry and I know Jack is too. He is really beating himself up on all this.”
Young told the judge “I failed him many times. I was into drugs after my mother died and I put my kids in bad situations.”
Young admitted the trouble continued as his son was on pre-trial release and subject to strict rules. He said other members of the household continued to use drugs in Jack’s presence even though it violated the terms of his bond.
When prosecutor Daniel Kindred asked if his son should be held accountable for his actions, Young replied “I think it was an accident. He didn’t set out (to kill anyone) and I don’t believe in throwing kids away.”
Kindred asked Young if the consequences for the incident should be as severe as the crime. Young’s response: “I believe it was an accident, a very tragic accident…Jack was taking the medicine the doctor prescribed.”
Perhaps the most impassioned testimony came from Jack Young’s older sister Chelsea, who told the survivors she was sorry and that she wished she could have reached out to tell them so sooner, but she knew it was not appropriate.
Chelsea told the grieving family members “Ya’ll had to go through so much more. I’m sorry. You have such beautiful, loving family members you lost and it wasn’t fair and I’m sorry.”
When asked to tell the court about the growing up years with her brother, Chelsea said of her parents “I listened to your beautiful memories. We had none of that. We had none. What they did to us emotionally, verbally, mentally and some physically. Emotionally it was the hardest to be blamed for things you had no control of. We didn’t have a choice. Those are the parents you are given.”
Sobbing, Chelsea explained she and her brother knew nothing but heartache growing up “I don’t have any happy memories. I just don’t. I’ve been through therapy but it doesn’t fix it. Just look at where we are now! Just look!”
Choking with emotion Chelsea exclaimed, “They gave us drugs!” She told the judge she and Jack had to cope with their parents cooking methamphetamine in the house and early drug use. Chelsea said
Jack was given Xanax in the fourth grade and other drugs, as well as they, grew up.
Forcefully, Chelsea told the court “My brother is paying the price for what they showed us. We didn’t know it was wrong. I know they’re sick but I never thought it could go that far. I thought it was just us (suffering.)”
Jack Young’s aunt addressed the family members saying her family is ‘deeply, deeply, deeply affected.’ “Not a day goes by that we don’t pray for all of you.”
Jack Young took the stand as well, telling the judge many of his problems are related to a sexual assault he suffered as a young boy. He talked of suicidal thoughts, begging for help and being hospitalized for mental health treatment.
Young told the judge he did not realize the prescription medication he took that morning would lead to so much devastation.
With regard to his life now, Young said “I bargain with God and ask if we can make a trade and bring them back. I would do anything. I wish I could describe how much I am sorry.”
Speaking of the dead, Young said “I know these people are up in heaven. I know they are with God. Every time I think about ending my life, I think they are with God.”
Young repeatedly said he was sorry, speaking to the gallery “This is something I never wanted. Ya’ll deserved none of this.”
Answering prosecutor Daniel Kindred’s last question, Young said “All I want to do is change,” but went on to admit that he should serve time in prison.
After a short recess, Judge Camile DuBose returned with her verdict, a total of 55 years in prison. She also ruled that Young had used his truck as a deadly weapon, which assured Young will have to serve at least half of his term before he is eligible to apply for parole. Prosecutor Kindred said that because
Young has no previous felony convictions, he was eligible for a probated sentence, but the affirmative finding ruling guaranteed prison time.
The judge also gave Young credit for time he has already served in jail.
Addressing the grieving families, DuBose said the proceedings had been powerful, and it had been a blessing to be part of the displays of faith and love in Jesus Christ. Of the dead, DuBose said “They are not truly gone, they live on in the hearts of each and every one of you.”