Episode 078: Molly Young

May 1, 2023

When 21-year-old Molly Young is found dead in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment, her death is ruled a suicide. But there is much more to the story, and Molly’s family is determined to find justice.

Episode Media
Molly Marie Young
Molly with her parents in front of her award-winning photograph (Southern Illinoisan)
Molly Young and Richie Minton (True Crime Daily)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. As I was researching last week’s case about Pravin Varughese, I came across another suspicious death in the city of Carbondale, just two years prior. Another young college student, another botched investigation. This case is heartbreaking and infuriating, and nothing about it is straightforward. This episode discusses sensitive topics and includes graphic descriptions, so listener discretion is advised.

At 9am on Saturday, March 24, 2012, a call came in to 911 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Dispatcher 1: 911, what’s your emergency?
Wesley Romack: Hi, we have a person at my living facility who we believe to be dead.
Dispatcher 1: Okay, where’s that at.
Wesley Romack: Uh, it’s at… we’re at 500… here.
Richie Minton: Hello?
Dispatcher 1: Hello?
Richie Minton: Hey, I’m at 500 North Westridge Drive, apartment 82.
Dispatcher 1: Okay, and who is this to you.
Richie Minton: Uh, It’s my ex-girlfriend.
Dispatcher 1: And how old is she?
Richie Minton: She’s 22.
Dispatcher 1: Okay, and is she not breathing at all?
Richie Minton: No, she… I woke up and she’s covered in blood. She’s overdosed. She bled out through her nose.
Dispatcher 1: And you said she’s 23?
Richie Minton: 22.
Dispatcher 1: What’s her name?
Dispatcher 2: 911, what’s your emergency?
Dispatcher 1: Hey I’m going to send an ambulance. They have a 10-79.
Richie Minton: Amber?
Dispatcher 2: Yeah?
Richie Minton: “This is Richie. My girlfriend just committed suicide.
Dispatcher 2: gasps
Richie Minton: Can you send an ambulance here, can you send a car over? 500 North Westridge, apartment 82.
Dispatcher 2: 82?
Richie Minton: Yeah.
Dispatcher 2: Yep, we’ll be on our way.
Richie Minton: Thanks, Amber.
Dispatcher 2: Alrighty, bye bye.
Richie Minton: Can I, can I go ahead and hang up?
Dispatcher 1: Yeah, go ahead and hang up. I’ll go ahead and send an ambulance that way though.
Richie Minton: Thanks.
Dispatcher 1: You’re welcome.

The first male voice you heard on the call was Wesley Romack; the second was his roommate, Richie Minton. Richie knew the protocol – he himself was an emergency dispatcher with the Carbondale Police Department. He was calm and collected as he provided his address and explained that his ex-girlfriend had overdosed.

But seven minutes after hanging up with 911, Richie called into the non-emergency line. This time, he asked the dispatcher to send the sergeant to his home. “She didn’t O.D. I just found my gun laying underneath her.”

And he was right. When paramedics arrived at Wes and Richie’s apartment at 9:13, they found 21-year-old Molly Young dead on the bedroom floor, a gunshot wound to her head. Richie’s .45 caliber handgun lay partially underneath her body, her cell phone and a nearly empty pill bottle lay by her right foot. The paramedics’ report later stated that Molly was cold to the touch, her eyes open and dilated.

The police sergeant arrived at 9:14 and, for some reason, allowed Richie to change out of his blood-spattered pajama pants and wash up in the apartment bathroom.

Richie told the sergeant that he had gone out drinking with friends the night before, and had gotten so drunk that he had vomited all over himself. He had texted Molly around 3am and asked her to come over and help him. He must have passed out, because the next thing he knew, he had woken up and found Molly next to his bed, covered in blood. He said that he wiped blood out of her mouth and tried to perform CPR but quickly realized she was already deceased. He woke up Wes and they called 911.

By 9:23am, Richie and Wes were on their way to the Carbondale police station for questioning. Richie’s blood-stained pajama pants were collected, but neither of the men had had their hands swabbed for gunshot residue or blood evidence. By the time they arrived at the station, Richie had obtained a lawyer and was asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. He refused to submit to any DNA testing and would not give consent to have his apartment, vehicle, or cell phone searched.

While our gut reaction may be to assume Richie is guilty of something because he immediately lawyered up, this is honestly the smartest thing any of us could do in this situation. True crime fans know that there are numerous cases of wrongful convictions that could possibly have been avoided if lawyers had been involved. Everyone has a right to a legal defense, including Richie Minton.

However, Richie did do some other suspicious things while he sat at the police station. Because he was not under arrest, he was allowed to keep and use his cell phone throughout the day. He mostly used it to call his parents multiple times, but at 9:44am, Richie once again called the non-emergency line and asked the dispatcher to get Molly’s phone from his apartment. It’s fairly certain that the phone had already been taken into evidence, but it’s certainly a strange request to make, especially in the middle of a death investigation.

Richie also told officers that the two scratches along his side, about six inches in length and freshly bleeding, must have happened when he was giving Molly CPR. But we know that Molly was deceased by the time Richie says he woke up; that scenario would be impossible. Perhaps Molly scratched him as she was trying to help him clean up before he passed out drunk, or perhaps it happened during an altercation. Either way, Richie didn’t seem to know for sure.

In another room at the police station, Richie’s roommate Wes was being much more forthcoming with information. Wes told police that he worked a night shift and got off work around 5:30 that morning. He checked his phone and saw that he had several text messages from Molly, and they were fairly alarming. “The last text she sent me, all I remember was it said [Richie] had been texting another girl, asking her to stay the night, and that he was so drunk he couldn’t walk, and she also apologized if I came home to anything dramatic.”

According to phone records, the actual text of Molly’s message was, “I think I’m gonna shoot myself in the head. I’m really really sorry if you come home to that.” The text was sent at 4:41am.

Wes told police that when he arrived home from work at 5:45, he saw Molly’s purse and shoes in the living room. He stuck his head in Richie’s bedroom door, saw that his roommate was asleep, and then texted Molly, “He’s asleep now. I just got home.” Wes fell asleep around 7, then said he was awakened by Richie at 9, telling him that Molly was dead and that he needed help. That’s when he called 911.

Carbondale police recognized that Richie’s position as a police dispatcher would be a conflict of interest, so they contacted the Illinois State Police to take over the investigation. Carbondale Police Chief Jody O’Guinn had his officers secure the scene at the apartment and instructed them to bar anyone from entering until state police arrived. This included anyone from the coroner’s office. In fact, Molly’s body was not officially examined until well into the afternoon. She was left on the bedroom floor for over seven hours until law enforcement was able to get signed search warrants.

When the deputy coroner was finally allowed to examine Molly, he estimated that her time of death was around 4:45am, just minutes after texting Wes. If that timeline is correct, that means Molly was already dead on the floor when Wes looked into the bedroom to check on Richie.

While Richie and Wes were at the police station, Molly Young’s family was going about their day, unaware that their world was about to be shattered. Molly’s mother Kathy told Crime Watch Daily about the moment she learned her youngest daughter was gone. “When I drove up in the afternoon there was a state police car in the driveway. He said ‘I regret to inform you that your daughter’s been killed,’ and I fell to the floor.”

But Molly’s family wouldn’t have much time to process the news before investigators were searching the home where Molly lived with her mother and grandmother. They seized Molly’s laptop and camera, but wouldn’t say what they were looking for. I do think it’s important to note that Molly’s room was searched before Richie’s – the actual crime scene – and Richie’s computer wasn’t seized until months into the investigation.

On March 25th, the coroner’s office released their findings. “The investigation conducted by the agencies involved indicated self-inflicted wound. The manner of death is classifiable as suicide.”

Molly’s family was shocked. State police had first said that Molly’s death was being investigated as a homicide – what had changed? This was not the Molly they knew.

Molly had grown up in the Carbondale area. The youngest of three sisters, Molly was bright and creative, passionate about music, art, and photography. In high school, Molly received the Scholastic Art & Writing Award for one of her photographs, and she was invited to Washington, D.C. to see it displayed in the lobby of the U.S. Department of Education. It was a huge honor, and Molly’s family was so proud. After graduating from Marion High School, Molly enrolled at Southern Illinois University. She worked at Victoria’s Secret to pay the bills while she continued to study and create art.

But her family admits that Molly’s life wasn’t perfect. She did struggle with depression, and she had even gone through a pretty significant health scare. Molly found a lump on her neck that she feared was a tumor on her thyroid. Her journal entries during that time showed how scared she was; Molly worried that she would die. Thankfully, the lump was not cancerous, and doctors were able to remove it with surgery. But the experience had quite an impact on Molly’s mental health.

So did her relationship with Richie Minton.

The son of a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy, Richie was already working as a dispatcher when he met Molly. Molly’s sister told Crime Watch Daily, “You know, they’re early 20s, most of the guys at her age are not the most responsible, so I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s got a good job.’ So when they first got together, I was actually happy for her. I was thrilled that she was with him.”

But that happiness didn’t last long. According to Molly’s family, Richie was manipulative and verbally abusive towards Molly. Every time Molly tried to break up with him, Richie would threaten to harm himself. Kathy recounted one such incident. “I was over at her house one day, she said, ‘Richie just texted me that he’s gonna kill himself if we don’t get back together.’ I said, ‘He is manipulating you.’ I said, ‘He’s not going to kill himself.’ She said, ‘Well, how can you be sure though, mom?’”

Then, in early March of 2012, just weeks before she died, Molly learned she was pregnant.

According to Molly’s sister, Molly chose to have a medically-induced abortion. Molly confided in her sister that she had told Richie she was concerned she wasn’t healthy enough to carry a baby, but that the real reason she wanted to end the pregnancy was because, “she did not want him to treat their child the way that he had always treated her.”

Not long after that, Molly and Richie broke up again, and Molly told him that she didn’t think they could stay friends. Richie again threatened to harm himself and blamed Molly for his pain. In a text exchange dated March 21st, Molly told Richie that she would leave him alone if he promised not to hurt himself. Richie responded, “no. you’ve taken everything else away from me youre not taking my only escape plan”. Molly asked what she took from him, and he responded, “i chose you over my friends i don’t have them anymore. you took my child away from me. then you took you away from me. now you took wes away from me. ive got nothing”.

Wes often acted as a go-between for Molly and Richie, and it seems as though Richie was angry that Wes was taking Molly’s side in the breakup. Wes was worried about getting in the middle of something, but Molly was truly concerned that Richie would hurt himself. This was the emotionally fraught environment of the days leading up to Molly’s death.

On the evening of March 23rd, just after 10pm, Kathy stopped by her daughter’s bedroom door to say goodnight. Molly was already in bed, and everything seemed fine. But around 5:30 the next morning, Kathy remembers jolting awake, a strange feeling in her gut. When she went to check on her daughter, Molly was gone. Kathy texted her a few times, but there was no response. Kathy even went so far as to drive around town looking for Molly, stopping by what she thought was Richie’s apartment complex. But eventually, Kathy turned around and went home. She wouldn’t find out what happened to her daughter until that afternoon, when investigators told her Molly had been killed.

With all of this context, Molly’s family couldn’t believe what investigators were telling them, that their bright and talented girl had taken her own life.

However, there was some evidence to back up this theory. Molly’s journals showed her struggles with depression, and she sometimes wrote about how unhappy she was with her life. When state police seized Molly’s laptop, they found multiple searches for topics relating to suicide on the night before she died. There was a handwritten note left on her bedroom floor, telling her family and Richie that she loved them and that she was sorry to say goodbye. Then, there were texts that Molly sent to Wes and Richie in the days before she died, referencing times she had previously tried to take her own life. Investigators believed that Molly meant what she said in her last text to Wes, that she was planning to shoot herself in the head.

But Molly’s family disputes all of these claims. Yes, Molly had struggled with depression, but the majority of her journal entries had been written when she was still in high school, and the last entry had been dated nine months prior to her death. The laptop searches had been done on a night when she was out with friends, all of whom confirmed that she didn’t have her laptop with her. The handwritten note had been written ages ago, around the time of her cancer scare. She had been saying goodbye because she believed she wouldn’t survive. And the texts to Wes and Richie? Her family doesn’t believe those came from Molly at all. Anyone could have sent those messages from her phone. As Larry told Crime Watch Daily, “A text is not handwriting or fingerprints.”

For months, Molly’s family agonized over the coroner’s ruling. They knew that the investigation had been botched from the beginning, ever since Carbondale police let Richie wash his hands and change his clothes. But they weren’t going to let Molly’s case go cold. There were so many questions that still needed answers.

Then, in January of 2013, ten months after Molly’s death, the coroner requested a special inquest into Molly’s case. After examining the evidence, a jury of six changed the original coroner’s ruling from suicide to undetermined.

This was a huge win for Molly’s family. Although they believed her death was a homicide, a ruling of undetermined could possibly help them get Illinois State Police to investigate further.

Later that year, Larry Young filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the files on his daughter’s case. The evidence he found within those files was overwhelming. Larry told ABC News, “Everything seems to have been investigated to see if she committed suicide, and she didn’t, it’s obvious… In my opinion the evidence is there. I would hope that they go after that evidence.”

Larry has shared some of that evidence in the Justice for Molly Facebook group that the Young family started in April of 2012. While there is far too much to cover in this episode, I will share some of the more relevant pieces to help us get a fuller picture of Molly’s case.

Molly’s autopsy showed that the bullet that took her life entered in a downward trajectory on the left frontal side of her head. Molly was right-handed, and while it’s not impossible for someone to shoot themselves with their non-dominant hand, it’s not very common, and it would have been awkward for Molly to hold the gun in that position. Special Agent Aaron Cooper communicated with forensic scientist Mary Wong and reported that if Molly was not the shooter, the trajectory indicated that the gun could have been fired by someone standing above her while she lay on the ground, or by someone standing on the bed while she stood below.

When Molly’s body was found, her right hand was clenched in a fist at her side. Her cell phone and a bottle of amoxicillin – a basic antibiotic – lay next to her right foot. Richie claimed that this was why he originally thought she had overdosed, but Molly’s toxicology report showed normal levels of medication, consistent with what she was prescribed. She had no alcohol or any other drugs in her system.

Molly had multiple bruises on her thigh, knee, and foot, and large abrasions on both sides of her head. But there were no injuries to her hands, not even her left hand which she supposedly would have used to fire the gun. There was no blood spatter or gunshot residue on Molly’s hands or clothes. However, there were large bloody transfer stains on the left shoulder of Molly’s hoodie as if a hand had been placed there.

One of the biggest conundrums in this case is how no one in any of the apartments reported hearing a gunshot on the morning of March 24th. Not even Richie, who was supposedly asleep in bed just feet away from Molly. Is it possible that he was so black-out drunk that he slept right through it?

Police Chief Jody O’Guinn told Crime Watch Daily, “It depends on the individual. Each person is different in how they sleep. When a weapon is fired it depends on how close it may be to an individual’s skin, whether or not that sound is muffled, so there are a lot of variables there. Is it something that I would think I would sleep through? No. Is it something I think is possible for someone to be able to sleep through? Yes. Likely? No.”

In spite of Richie’s sergeant letting him clean up and change clothes at the scene, there is other evidence that may indicate some involvement on his part.

Richie’s pajama pants had blood spatter and transfer blood on the right leg. They also tested positive for gunshot residue. Richie’s DNA was found under Molly’s fingernails on both hands. This could possibly be connected to the large scratches on Richie’s back. There was also no physical evidence that Richie had performed CPR on Molly as he had claimed.

One of the most compelling and confusing pieces of evidence is the missing text messages. According to Larry Young, thousands of messages between Molly and Richie were deleted from Molly’s cell phone, everything from January 17th to March 9th of 2012. Messages were also deleted from Richie’s phone from January 17th up to the day of Molly’s death. Some were able to be recovered through forensic investigation, but some were not. What was in those messages? How and when were they deleted, and who deleted them?

In August of 2013, the Jackson County State’s Attorney appointed a special prosecutor to look into Molly’s case. For over a year, the prosecutor dug into the mountain of evidence, but in the end, he ruled that there was not enough to warrant an arrest.

In January of 2014, Larry Young filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Richie Minton, alleging that he lured Molly to his apartment with the intention of shooting her, that he cleaned up the scene and staged it to look like a suicide, then waited hours to call 911. But in 2015, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the statute of limitations had run out. It was yet another blow to the Young family’s quest for justice.

But of course, they weren’t going to take it lying down. Larry reached out to Illinois State Representative Terri Bryant for help. Larry explained how the lawsuit was dismissed because it had taken so long for the Illinois State Police to turn over the documents in Molly’s case, and when they did turn them over, they left out large chunks of information. They had missed their window for justice because of police inaction. Representative Bryant agreed that something had to change. Together, they began to craft a bill that would require agencies to turn over documents requested through FOIA within 30 days. If the Young family had had those documents earlier, they may have been able to find justice in civil court.

On July 19, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner officially signed Molly’s Law. He told reporters, “Today is an important day for Illinois families seeking justice. This bill provides families a longer timeframe to bring wrongful death actions against perpetrators of intentional violent crimes and gives families access to the necessary public information to find closure in a loved one’s death.”

Today, Molly’s family continues to fight for justice. Although no charges have been filed in the case, they believe it’s only a matter of time. They want the evidence to be brought before a grand jury and an indictment to be handed down. In the meantime, they honor Molly’s memory through a memorial scholarship and generous donations to causes that Molly would have loved.

Their Facebook group, Justice for Molly, is 22,000 members strong, and they are not stopping anytime soon. Molly’s case is still open and active, and the Justice for Molly team is determined to keep her story in the public eye.

I encourage you to join the Justice for Molly Facebook group, not only to learn more about Molly’s case, but to show our support as a true crime community for victims like Molly who need their voice to be heard.

And if you have any information about Molly’s case, please contact the Jackson County State’s Attorney’s Office at 618-687-7200. Let’s get justice for Molly.