Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Brother-in-law pleads guilty to Dec. murder in Clermont




BY TOM O'NEILL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — Michael Young pleaded guilty Monday to the murder of his 22-year-old brother-in-law, telling his anguished family it was God's way of punishing him — but not for murder.

        He maintains he didn't do it and accepted a sentence of life in prison only because he feared the death penalty and was guilty of keeping a murder a secret. But the Goshen man admitted being there on or about Dec. 4when Jeffrey Little was beaten with a club and fist and stabbed to death near Little Indian Creek in Ohio Township, near New Richmond.

        Clermont County assistant prosecutor Darrell Hawkins responded by saying that in addition to physical evidence, among the most incriminating evidence were Mr. Young's own words. “Young put himself at the scene, and as more than just an innocent bystander,” he said.

        Mr. Young, 29, and co-defendant Gregory Menkhaus, an 18-year-old friend and co- worker at a local Applebee's, both initially implicated a third person. But that person had a solid alibi “and clearly wasn't there,” Mr. Hawkins said. “Both defendants were equal participants.”

        Mr. Menkhaus, also of Goshen, pleaded guilty to the same aggravated murder charge last week and also was sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 20 years.

        Following Mr. Young's guilty plea — at which Common Pleas Judge Robert Ringland said “he didn't show me any remorse” — Mr. Young gestured to his parents and siblings not to cry.

        One of those relatives was Mr. Young's sister, Lisa, the victim's estranged wife.

        “No way my brother could have gotten a fair trial,” she said later at the family's home in Goshen. “He was threatened with the death penalty.”

        Prosecutor Don White has said that he would never use the death penalty as a negotiation tool, but that the circumstances warranted it. Mr. Hawkins added Monday that Mr. Young and Mr. Menkhaus planned the murder “as far back as Thanksgiving.”

        Mr. Little's body was recovered by fishermen on Memorial Day, nearly seven months after his mother reported him missing. She was at Monday's plea hearing.

        The primary motive, Mr. Hawkins said, was robbery. The $1,300 Mr. Little received from his mother in California shortly before his death has never been found.

        Mr. Little had come to Clermont last year from a Los Angeles suburb to try to reconcile with his wife and son.

       



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