More than two years after Michelle Young was found bludgeoned to death, her young daughter in bed nearby, her relatives have received a measure of justice -- though not the kind they were ultimately hoping for.
A North Carolina civil court judge has ruled that Michelle Young's husband, Jason Young, killed the 29-year-old mother in November 2006, even though no criminal charges have yet been filed in the slaying.
"Jason Lynn Young willfully and unlawfully killed Michelle Marie Fisher Young," Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens wrote in his ruling. He also barred Jason Young, 34, from receiving any life insurance money or assets from his wife's estate.
Jason Young, who declined to comment for this story, is still free and living in North Carolina with his young daughter.
The wrongful death lawsuit against him was brought by his wife's mother, Linda Fisher, in October, shortly before the two-year statute of limitations on such suits was to run out.
When Jason Young didn't respond to the civil suit, the judge granted a motion for a default judgment in Fisher's favor.
Paul Michaels, Fisher's lawyer in Raleigh, said they are hoping the civil court ruling will spur the criminal probe of the case. Jason Young has not been named as a suspect.
"Something had to be done," Michaels told ABCNews.com. "The main reason this was done was Linda Fisher believed Jason killed Michelle."
At least one police investigator agrees.
Included as evidence in Fisher's lawsuit was an affidavit from Wake County Sheriff's Office criminal investigator R. C. Spivey III, a lead investigator in the case.
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."
When asked why no charges had been filed against Jason Young despite a signed affidavit from the department's investigator naming him as the likely killer, Wake County Sheriff's Office public information director Phyllis Stephens had no comment.
"It's a continuing investigation for us," she said.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said that explaining why Jason Young has not been charged would require revealing evidence that he's not allowed to comment on.
Cummings said Stephens' ruling would not further his office's investigation into Jason Young because it was based largely on police statements, which the District Attorney's Office has already reviewed. He also declined to comment on when or whether charges in Michelle Young's murder would be forthcoming.
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. Her 2-year-old daughter, Cassidy, 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.
"I think she truly became a total, whole person when she became a mom," Fisher told ABCNews.com. "Because she shined through that."
Fisher, who lives in Sayville, N.Y., where her daughter was raised, said that the headstone on her daughter's grave includes an etching of two hearts, one inside the other to represent her daughter and the unborn Rylan.
Michelle Young was a former cheerleader who loved to run and exercise. She had a master's degree in accounting from North Carolina State University and continued to root for her alma mater's sports teams.
"She had it all going," Fisher said.
Police affidavits state that Michelle Young's sister, Meredith Fisher, discovered the body after being called by Jason Young to stop by the couple's house to pick up computer printouts relating to a belated third anniversary surprise that Jason Young didn't want his wife to know about.
A bottle of extra-strength adult liquid Tylenol along with a medicine dropper was found on a dresser in Cassidy's room, even though a subsequent investigation found nothing in her medical records to suggest it had been recommended by a doctor.
"It is further believed that the medication was delivered to the child under the mistaken belief that it would cause drowsiness," read a portion of a search warrant for a DNA swab of Cassidy's cheek, dated July 25, 2007. "Once the child was asleep, the perpetrator would have been able to commit or continue with their attack without worrying about interference from the child."
When Cassidy was found, her feet and the sheets she had been sleeping in were clean. But the search warrant says small, bloody footprints were found on the floor of Cassidy's bathroom.
'Anatomy of a Knockout'
Police say they also noticed an adult print, found to be from a size 12 Hush Puppies Orbital shoe, that 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 had 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.
Phone records show about 980 cell phone calls and text messages were sent between Jason Young and his alleged mistress between Oct. 4 and Nov. 3, 2006.
On Oct. 28, 2006, days before the murder, Jason Young e-mailed the woman he'd been seeing: "i don't know how all this happened, but i know how it will end up … two broken hearts … but, i don't care. i know there is pain in my future, but you are so worth it, even if it's only for a 'blink' in time."
According to the affidavits, there were 28 cell phone calls between Jason Young and his mother before 1:37 p.m. Nov. 3, the day Michelle Young's body was found. The 911 call from Meredith Fisher was made at 1:25 p.m.
He ignored four phone calls from Linda Fisher, according to the affidavits, despite having checked his messages to retrieve them, before being notified of his wife's death later that evening.
The police affidavits said Jason Young was uncooperative from the beginning of the investigation and, when asked to come to the Wake County Sheriff's Office on the night of Nov. 3, 2006, did not inquire about his daughter's well-being or the cause of his wife's death.
The affidavits also included an e-mail exchange Jason Young had with one of his sisters after Michelle Young's death.
In referring to Cassidy, Kim Young wrote, "What happens when her little friends aren't allowed to come play with her or spend the night because rumor is her daddy killed her mommy?"
Jason Young wrote back: "You spend your days on the internet going into chatrooms where you're not going to find anything good written about the situation, but in time things will die down. Most people out there don't know one thing about any of this."
As of Nov. 6, 2008, Jason Young, according to the affidavit, has not been interviewed by police despite numerous requests in person and through his attorney.
Messages left with Roger Smith Jr. of Raleigh, Jason Young's attorney, were not returned and repeated attempts to reach Jason Young or his family were unsuccessful.
Jason Young is still living in North Carolina has custody of Cassidy, according to Fisher's lawyer.
'Somebody Needs to Be Punished'
Jennifer Powers, Michelle Young's best friend since high school, declined to comment on Stephens' civil court ruling or Jason Young's possible involvement in his wife's murder, but said that "somebody needs to be punished for this crime."
The two friends met as cheerleaders at New York's Sayville High School. Even after Michelle Young's move to North Carolina and subsequent marriage the two remained in contact every day.
Powers, 31, said that when Michelle Young first met her future husband, "she was thrilled."
"He has this very happy-go-lucky attitude that she thought complimented her," Powers said.
And Jason Young, she remembered, introduced her best friend to activities she'd never tried before including hiking and camping. When Michelle Young brought her then-boyfriend back to New York to meet her friends and family, Powers said everyone else saw the good in Jason Young that Michelle Young had seen.
"He certainly fit in right away," she said.
Powers, now living in Hoboken, N.J., said she last saw her friend in late October 2006. Michelle Young had come up to New York on a business trip, hoping it would coincide with the birth of Powers' first child. When the baby didn't come as scheduled, Michelle Young postponed her trip home so she could be there for the birth.
Powers said her best friend was her daughter's first visitor. The two were looking forward to raising their babies together and Powers said she was anxious to hear all the parenting advice her best friend would have.
Now, she just misses the day-to-day friendship.
"I do hope charges will be brought against the person that did it," she said. "I think we need to see some justice."