ANDERSON, Texas (KBTX) - *Warning: The details in this story contain graphic information that may be difficult for some to read.*
Leslie Eugene Young, Jr., also known as LJ Young, was found guilty last week of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and sentenced to life in prison by a Grimes County jury. Prosecutors say the conviction comes after a harrowing trial that shed light on Young’s extensive history of abuse, including child sexual assault.
The case began on July 6, 2022, when the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a sexual assault of a child. Investigator Swank Backhus took charge of the investigation, by having a forensic interview conducted with the female survivor. During the interview, the victim disclosed repeated sexual assaults while living with LJ Young in Bedias. She told the investigators that after the sexual assaults began, she was forced to take a pregnancy test and was told if she was pregnant, she would be forced to have an abortion. She was also threatened to be killed if she told anyone about the abuse.
Recognizing the severity of the case, Investigator Backhus sought assistance from District Attorney Investigator John Wren, known for his expertise in child sexual abuse cases. On July 15, 2022, both investigators traveled to East Texas to meet with an adult woman, related to the victim, who agreed to work with law enforcement to secure evidence.
As a result of their work, investigators learned Young not only sexually abused the child and physically assaulted the woman, but they said they uncovered a pattern of violence spanning several years involving multiple kids, ranging in age from toddler to teenager, residing in Young’s house. The abuse included severe beatings resulting in deep purple bruising and whelps, punches to the face, choking, and pointing firearms at the children and the woman. One of the young survivors was beaten with a thin fiberglass rod so badly that whelps on his buttocks slit open and bled through his underwear, said prosecutors.
The children were also deprived of basic necessities like food and were not allowed to attend school. Investigators learned Young would treat one of the kids like “a slave” and on many occasions would call him demeaning names, including racial slurs.During the trial, the woman testified when the COVID shutdown began in March 2020, the violence got much worse because the children rarely left the home.
Prosecutors say the woman shared stories of the ongoing abuse with her co-workers, and they helped her develop an escape plan for everyone who resided with Young. These co-workers saved money, collected essential household items and found a home for the woman and the children to move into located outside of Grimes County. The husband of one of the women involved in the escape plan was enlisted to help and lured Young away from his home one day by taking him to a mud park in Huntsville. Prosecutors say that’s when the woman and the children were able to get out.
“God bless those phenomenal women, who stepped up and helped these victims escape. These women gave their time and money in such a selfless and caring way. They are heroes in this story,” said Assistant District Attorney Meagan Callaham.
As a result of the investigation, LJ Young faced a multitude of charges, including Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child, Aggravated Assault, Injury to a Child, Assault Family Violence-Impeding Breath, and Continuous Violence Against the Family.
Of all the charges that could be tried, the Grimes County District Attorney’s Office says it made a calculated decision to proceed on the Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon case based on available evidence and respecting the wishes of the victims involved while making sure the defendant served as much time in prison as possible for his crimes.
The trial commenced on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in the 12th District Court, presided over by Judge David Moorman. The jury heard from both a family violence expert and a child abuse expert, and they learned about the cycle of family violence, the impact of the trauma memory, why delayed reporting is common, and child abuse grooming techniques, amongst other related topics.
“This case is a reminder of why education on family violence is so important. The victim may fear retaliation, homelessness, loss of financial stability, or inability to care for their dependent children. There are many reasons victims fail to report abuse,” said Grimes County Crime Victims Coordinator Brenda Williams.
Assistant District Attorneys Tammy Thomas and Meagan Callaham presented a compelling case to the jury during the guilt/innocence phase, and last Friday the jury returned a guilty verdict after only 20 minutes of deliberation and Young was sentenced to life in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Thank God for the bravery of the sexual assault victim in this case. Her outcry is what got the ball moving toward justice and putting a monster behind bars,” said Callaham. “The jury’s life sentence verdict sends a clear message about how the Grimes County community feels about child abuse,” said Assistant District Attorney Tammy Thomas. “I am so proud of the victims in this case. Each of them had a story to share with the jury. They were able to find the courage and strength to get on the stand and face their abuser,” said Grimes County DA Crime Victims Liaison Gilverta Diaz.
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon by Threat is a second-degree felony and Young faced a punishment range of 5 to 99 years or life in prison because he pled true to an enhancement. The enhancement was based on a prior felony conviction for Burglary of a Habitation out of Harris County.
Young is currently in the Grimes County Jail awaiting transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“In my 25 years of working in law enforcement, this case is the most extreme child physical abuse case I’ve seen,” said DA Investigators John Wren. “Investigator Backhus and I worked day and night putting together this case after realizing the magnitude of the abuse. We both pledged to these victims they would get justice. These victims now have some measure of closure on the hell they have lived through.”