The family of a murdered young mother from North Carolina was awarded $15.6 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit against her husband, notching a victory in their quest to hold him responsible for her death.
Jason Young has not been charged in the criminal investigation into the 2006 bludgeoning death of his wife, Michelle Young, although her family and the lead investigator testified in civil court that they believe he killed her. The civil suit was filed by Michelle Young's mother, Linda Fisher.
"The pretty obvious point was, this is not the way to end a marriage," Jack Michaels, Fisher's attorney in Raleigh, told ABCNews.com today. "There are divorce courts for that."
A heart-wrenching video played during the trial in Wake County showed Michelle Young with daughter Cassidy, who, at the end, speaks up saying, "I love you Mommy."
"I love you too Cassidy," Michelle Young responded, smiling.
Though the family had asked for $36 million, they were awarded Monday $3.9 million in compensatory damages and $11.7 in punitive damages.
"We're probably never going to collect any of this," Michaels said. But if they do, "virtually every dime would go to Cassidy," he said, and the rest to pay for Michelle Young's funeral expenses.
"The money doesn't mean anything," Michelle Young's best friend Jennifer Powers told ABCNews.com. "It's all about justice for Michelle."
Michelle Young's sister, Meredith Fisher, was awarded primary custody of the couple's nearly 5-year-old daughter last month, with visitation rights for Jason Young on weekends, holidays and other occasions.
As expected, neither Jason Young nor his attorney appeared in court for the wrongful death ruling. He was deemed responsible for his wife's death in civil court by default last year when he failed to respond to the suit.
"The focus there is on escaping criminal testimony," lawyer Michaels said of Jason Young's absence.
According to WTVD, Young has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. Messages left today with his attorney, Roger Smith Jr. of Raleigh, were not returned and attempts to reach Jason Young or his family were unsuccessful.
Though Wake County Sheriff's Office has told local media that Jason Young is the prime suspect in his wife's death, a spokeswoman referred all questions from ABCNews.com to the local District Attorney's Office.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings told ABCNews.com today that he couldn't comment on when or whether charges would be filed in Michelle Young's death.
"There's still physical evidence that's being analyzed" and collected, he said.
He said that the civil ruling would have no bearing on the criminal investigation, but added, "I think it's important that Linda and Meredith [Fisher] will be able to share in the raising of Cassidy."
'Something Had to Be Done'
Michelle Young, described by friends and family as the quintessential American girl, was found beaten to death on the floor of her bedroom in her home outside Raleigh Nov. 3, 2006. Cassidy, then 2, who police believe may have been drugged, was found in bed near her mother's body with clean feet despite child-size bloody footprints found elsewhere in the house.
Michelle Young was five months pregnant with the couple's child, a son to have been named Rylan.
Paul Michaels, Linda Fisher's other lawyer, said in December that they hoped the civil court ruling would spur the criminal probe of the case.
"Something had to be done," Michaels told ABCNews.com. "The main reason this was done was Linda Fisher believed Jason killed Michelle."
Included as evidence in Fisher's lawsuit was an affidavit from Wake County Sheriff's Office investigator R.C. Spivey III, who also testified in court that Michelle Young's beating was among the worst he'd ever seen.
Spivey wrote in the affidavit: "I am familiar with other items of fact developed during this investigation that have not been placed in the public record to support a search warrant and, in my opinion, this evidence ... indicates that Jason Young was the perpetrator."
During the civil court trial, Meredith Fisher, who went about a year without seeing Cassidy, described how the little girl asked her, "How did my mommy used to hold me?"
"I just grabbed her real tight and told her that her mom loved her so much and that she would squeeze her and hug her like this every chance she could," Meredith Fisher said through tears.
'Anatomy of a Knockout'
Search warrants and affidavits in the case detail damning circumstantial evidence against Jason Young, including alleged extramarital affairs and a bottle of extra-strength adult Tylenol police believe was given to Cassidy to make her drowsy during her mother's murder.
Police also noticed an adult print that they said was from a size 12 Hush Puppies Orbital shoe, which was left in the bloodstains. Police later found through store records that Jason Young had purchased a pair of size 12 Hush Puppies Orbital shoes more than a year before his wife's death, according to investigators' reports.
Records seized from Jason Young's computer turned up search queries on "anatomy of a knockout," "head trauma knockout," "divorce" and "gay bars in New York City," according to police affidavits.
There were also searches for "right posterior parietal occipital region" -- the occipital region is in the back of the head -- and "ischemia," the decrease in the blood supply to parts of the body caused by constriction or obstruction of blood vessels, according to the affidavit.
According to police affidavits dated Feb. 13, 2008 and Nov. 6, 2008, Jason Young checked into a Hampton Inn in Virginia the night before his wife's body was found, and he had allegedly been having an affair. He was seen on hotel security cameras the night before his wife's body was discovered wearing two different sets of clothing within a few hours, authorities said.