© 2019 by Steven B. Epstein

Why I Wrote This Book

Like Michelle Young, I grew up on Long Island, graduating from Oceanside High School in 1983.  Like her, I migrated South to attend college--at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Although I didn't know Michelle, at the time of her death, I was working for a law firm in a building right next door to the Progress Energy building in which she worked.  The associate attorney I worked most closely with lived in Michelle's neighborhood.  Our life's journeys had much in common.  That connected me to this story.

Like many, I was drawn to the news coverage surrounding the murder of this pregnant woman--whose toddler was found unharmed in her home, amidst the bloody crime scene.  As a lawyer who at one time wanted to be a prosecutor, I found the criminal investigation and prosecution theories fascinating.  There was so much conflicting and confounding circumstantial evidence.  There was compelling human drama.  I recall watching Jason Young's testimony on the WRAL News live stream of the first trial, riveted to his words and demeanor as if I had been sitting in the jury box.  I also watched Bryan Collins' closing argument on my computer.  I was captivated by the courtroom drama and theatrics.

As a law student, I spent part of the summer of 1988 working for Tharrington Smith, where Bryan Collins was a young associate, and where Roger Smith, Jr., Alice Stubbs, and even Howard Cummings would eventually work.  During my career as a civil litigator, I had appeared before Judge Donald W. Stephens many times--and had been a recipient of "the look" on more than one occasion.  Thus, my own career was connected in several ways to this story. 

But none of this truly explains why I decided to take on this project.  Ultimately, I did it for two reasons:  First, I believed strongly this is a story that needed to be told--a story that would interest and fascinate a much larger audience than those in the Raleigh area who consumed the daily news coverage of the case as I did.  Second, I had reached a point in my life in which I wanted to challenge myself.  To do something out of the box.  To get outside my own comfort zone.  To be willing to fail.  Call it a midlife crisis if you will.  Not one that would be fulfilled by a fancy new sports car, however.  Working on this book fulfilled some type of desire I had apparently been keeping at bay for some time.  I'm glad I challenged myself to do this and am very satisfied with the end result.  And the feeling of achievement that comes with seeing one's work in print.