Gwinnett County prosecutors opened a murder case against Tia Young and Harvey Timothy Lee on Thursday morning by painting a picture of double betrayal: Tia Young began an affair with Lee after her husband, George Young, gave Lee a job and let him live in their home rent-free.
Then, prosecutors argued, Tia Young and Lee used a tracking device to follow George Young’s movements and fatally shot him on the front porch of his Buford home, hoping to collect a $1 million insurance policy.
“There were a million reasons George Young was killed that night,” Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern said. “There was a $1 million Mutual of Omaha insurance policy Tia Young stood to collect.”
The insurance policy has not been paid out, pending results of the trial.
While defense attorneys admitted Lee and Tia Young had a relationship, they argued the state’s evidence was thin.
“She had an affair with Mr. Harvey Timothy Lee. That does not make her a killer,” said Scott Drake, Tia Young’s attorney.
Lee and Young are being tried together, although they have separate lawyers and the jury can decide on their verdicts separately. Police have not said who they think pulled the trigger.
The murder weapon was never found, and only one shell casing was recovered by police even though George Young was shot twice, said Dwight Thomas, Lee’s attorney. No gunshot residue was found on Lee’s hands or on the front or back doors of the house where Lee and the Youngs lived. Both defendants are charged with murder due to Georgia’s party to a crime statute, which allows all defendants allegedly involved in a crime to be charged with the most serious offense.
Tia Young, 43, and Lee, 39, were arrested and charged with George Young’s killing in April 2018, five months after his death.
George Young was shot twice as he put his keys in his front door around midnight on Nov. 17, 2017 and died before emergency services arrived. He was returning from a second job working as a security guard for rapper Lil Yachty at an event at Lenox Square.
In opening statements, Fern painted George Young as a beloved, hard-working businessman and father. Young, 43, had three sons with Tia Young.
“There is hardly anybody with a negative word to say about George Young,” Fern said.
George Young moved to Georgia from South Carolina to find better opportunities for his family, first working for Ackerman Security then starting a security firm of his own, Fern said.
“There was nothing but success ahead,” Fern said. “There was struggle. There were some hard times. There were financial difficulties. But he continued on.”
More than two years before his death, George Young offered Lee a job and a free place to live because he’d heard Lee was struggling, Fern said. At some point, Tia Young and Lee began a romantic relationship, unbeknownst to George Young.
In the weeks before George Young’s death, Lee and Tia Young put a tracking device on George Young’s car, telling him it was because they were concerned about his safety, police said after the April arrests. Prosecutors argued Thursday that the tracking device was actually used to orchestrate George Young’s killing. A security camera on the porch was not working at the time of the shooting and Fern suggested the Youngs’ three children may have been given sleeping medication in the hours before the killing, as they did not wake up from the sound of gunshots.
But Thomas suggested something darker could have led to George Young’s death. Thomas said George Young “lived a double life” that few knew about, including financial issues and a gambling problem, that could have motivated others to kill him.
The trial is expected to last into next week, according to Managing Assistant District Attorney Tom Williams.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.