Molly Young, 21, rushed to her ex-boyfriend's apartment after a cryptic text message that read "Help me." But a few hours later it would be police rushing to that home.
The story starts in Carbondale, Illinois, where a 911 dispatcher by the name of Richie Minton would find himself on the other end of a 911 call.
Was it a tragic accident or an act with intention? Or could the truth about how Molly Young died be hiding behind the very people sworn to protect it?
She was the third of three, the baby. But Molly Young had a soul much older than her years.
"She loved music and art and literature, very intellectual and articulate," said Molly's sister Holly Powell.
A staunch non-conformist with the heart of an artist and the talent to back it up.
"Molly is my youngest daughter, my baby daughter. She liked photography and art and she was very good at it," said Larry Young, Molly's father.
In high school, she even placed in a national photo competition. But behind the camera, Molly's life wasn't always so picture-perfect. As a teen, she struggled with bouts of depression, often writing about them in her journal.
And then later, there was "the scare."
"She had what she thought was cancer of the thyroid," said Larry Young. "In some of her photographs you could see the knot on her neck. And she got scared and depressed."
Surgery removed the mass, and thankfully, it wasn't cancer. But some say that around that time there was a dangerous malignancy growing in Molly's midst: Her boyfriend, a young Carbondale police dispatcher named Richie Minton.
"You know, they're early 20s, most of the guys at her age are not the most responsible, so I thought 'Oh my gosh, he's got a good job,'" said Molly's sister Holly. "So when they first got together, I was actually happy for her. I was thrilled that she was with him."
But Molly's dad had a much different first impression -- something about that smile.
"When he smiled it just, and I don't know if it was because of his bad teeth, it was just a feeling, you know, a feeling that he's an evil person," said Larry.
Larry admits it could've just been the overprotective father in him. But according to others, there were plenty of tangible reasons to disapprove of the relationship.
"I knew he was manipulative from the things she had told me. I knew he put her down," said Molly's mother Kathy Young.
And apparently, Molly ended things several times. But Molly's mom says Richie knew just how to get her daughter back.
"I was over at her house one day, she said 'Richie just texted me that he's gonna kill himself if we don't get back together.' I said 'He is manipulating you.' I said 'He's not going to kill himself.' She said 'Well, how can you be sure though, mom?'"
And it went back and forth like this for over a year, until one day, staying away became much more complicated.
"She called me one morning and she was with him. She told me then 'I'm pregnant,'" said Holly. "'We've talked about it, and I've decided I'm going to have an abortion.'"
With Richie Minton in the room, Molly Young tells her sister that given her recent medical issues, she doesn't feel healthy enough to carry the baby. But Holly says that wasn't the full story.
"She later told me that the real reason was because she did not want him to treat their child the way that he had always treated her," Holly tells Crime Watch Daily. "She described him as sociopathic. She described his narcissism and sense of grandeur and just not really having empathy for others. She didn't feel like he was capable of raising a child."
It's a serious claim, and no one but Molly's family can verify the conversation even took place. But what does seem well-documented is that Richie did take Molly to have a medically induced abortion. And shortly after that, the two broke up again.
Then, a few days later, on Friday, March 23, 2012. It's just after 10 p.m. when Molly's mom Kathy pokes her head in to say goodnight -- a moment now frozen in time.
"She was in bed with her pajamas on, so I went to bed," said Kathy.
Early the next morning, an eerie feeling wakes Kathy out of a deep sleep.
"About 5:30, I went to peek in her room and she wasn't in there, so I texted her, and she never texted me back," said Kathy.
After several more texts, Kathy drives around town looking for her daughter, even circling what she thinks is Richie Minton's apartment complex.
"I didn't find his apartment, so I turned around and then I headed home," said Kathy.
It wasn't long after that, 9:02 a.m. on March 24 to be exact, when Jackson County Police dispatchers received a call.
Dispatcher: "911, what's your emergency?"
Wes Romack: "Hi, we have a person at my living facility who we believe to be dead."
The call is from a young man named Wes Romack, Richie Minton's roommate. And the person he believes to be dead is Molly Young.
Richie can take it from here:
Richie Minton: "It's my ex-girlfriend."
Dispatcher: 'OK, and is she not breathing at all?"
Richie Minton: "No, she, I woke up and she's covered in blood. She's overdosed. She bled out through her nose."
Richie will later tell police he saw a pill bottle next to Molly's body and that it was the reason he said the following after getting transferred to his own dispatch center in Carbondale:
Dispatcher 1: "I'm going to send an ambulance."
Dispatcher 2: "Yeah?"
Minton: "This is Richie. My girlfriend just committed suicide. Can you send an ambulance here, can you send a car over?"
Dispatcher 2: "Yep, we'll be on our way."
Minton: "Thanks Amber."
Molly Young, just 21 years old, had taken her own life: suicide by drug overdose -- at least according to Richie Minton.
Minton: "Can I, can I go ahead and hang up?"
But just how accurate was that story? As it turns out, just seven minutes after the call, another comes into a private line to dispute Richie Minton's account. The person calling? Richie Minton.
Dispatch (Amber): "Carbondale Police."
Richie Minton: "Hey Amber?
Dispatch (Amber): "Yeah?"
Minton: "Hey, um, can you send the sergeant? She didn't O.D. I just found my gun laying underneath her."
What really happened inside the bedroom of that apartment? We know there were two people in there, one is dead. And the other just gave two wildly different accounts of how she died.
Former Carbondale, Illinois Police Chief Jody O'Guinn explains the discrepancy.
"The initial call came in as the overdose," said O'Guinn. "Apparently then, as Richie went over to tend to her to see if there was anything that he could do, when he moved her, he noticed that his handgun was laying next to her and that she had a head wound that was consistent with a gunshot wound."
Carbondale Police arrive at Richie Minton's apartment just minutes after that second call. But apparently the investigation -- or at least, an investigation -- began much earlier that morning when Richie didn't show up for his 7 a.m. shift as a Carbondale 911 operator.
"That's actually how this whole process started," said O'Guinn. "One of the other tele-communicators in the command center began texting him to find out where he was at, and that's what caused him to wake up apparently and then find the scene in his bedroom."
That's Richie's story anyway.
Minton: "Sorry that I'm late."
Dispatch (Amber): "Hey, no, don't worry about it, Richie. It's not a problem."
Minton: "All right. Thanks Amber."
Is there an immediate conflict of interest because he works for the Carbondale Police Department?
"I would think there would be, and that's why I immediately told my deputy chief to secure the scene, not let anyone else in or out, and to call the state police to take over the investigation," said Jody O'Guinn.
But before Illinois State Police arrive, Richie Minton and his roommate Wes Romack are taken to the station for questioning.
"It was basically that he had went out for a night prior to. He had been drinking," said O'Guinn. "He had vomited on his clothing, he had called Molly to come and help him get out of his clothing."
The time, phone records would later show, was a little after 3 a.m. Richie goes on to tell police that Molly was abused as a child and had tried to kill herself before. As for when Molly actually shot herself, Richie can't say. After she came over, he passed out drunk, and must've slept through it.
"Those were spontaneous statements that were made at the police station while we were waiting for the state police investigators to respond to conduct a formal interview," said Jody O'Guinn.
And as it turns out, they're pretty much the only statements authorities will get from Richie. After those comments, he stopped talking. And by the time state police arrived just after 10 a.m., Richie already has his parents and a lawyer present. And that's not all.
"He had two 6-inch scratches on his side. They were fresh," said Molly's father Larry Young.
The scratches on Minton's back, where did they come from?
"I don't know. Richie's statement is that he must have gotten those scratches while giving Molly CPR," said O'Guinn.
Scratches from a dead girl's hands?
"I honestly don't think he knows where they came from, because in my opinion that was a ridiculous statement," said O'Guinn.
State investigators seemed to think things weren't adding up either. In an email sent at 10:16 a.m., barely an hour after that 911 call, one sergeant writes:
"The death of the victim was initially believed to be a suicide. However, when questioned the dispatcher suspiciously lawyered up. The incident is being investigated as a homicide."
Was Richie Minton a suspect?
"Initially I would say that he was a suspect, yes," said O'Guinn.
But then, that was just the beginning. At that point, Molly Young's family didn't even know she was gone yet.
"When I drove up in the afternoon there was a state police car in the driveway. He said 'I regret to inform you that your daughter's been killed,' and I fell to the floor," said Molly's mother Kathy.
After that, it was Kathy's job to tell the rest of the family that nothing would ever be the same again.
"I got called by Molly's mother, I went to the police station and asked to speak to the first responding officer," said Larry Young. "I said 'I wanna know the who, what, when, where and why.'"
That's when, Larry says, a state lieutenant walked him outside and gave him the first hint that this would be no open-and-shut case.
"First thing he told me, this lieutenant said 'Father to father, Carbondale Police botched the case, they let him wash his hands and change clothes at the scene,'" Larry Young tells Crime Watch Daily.
According to Carbondale's own police records, responding officers let Richie Minton go to the bathroom to clean up before even taking him to the station. And there was more. While police still hadn't executed a search warrant on Richie's home, back at Molly's mom's house:
"We had two straight state troopers come into the house with my 80-year-old mother and handed her a search warrant to go in Molly's bedroom, get the computer, got her camera," said Kathy Young.
Though it wasn't yet clear what police were looking for, it would be soon. The very next day, after receiving the initial police reports, the coroner summarizes his findings as such:
"The investigation conducted by the agencies involved indicated self-inflicted wound. The manner of death is classifiable as suicide."
"I don't believe that [----] for a second," said Larry Young.
Just one day after police started investigating Molly Young's death as a homicide, a coroner changed it to suicide. Her family says cops had it right the first time.
"She was everything to me," said Kathy Young. "I would have never left that room if in my mind I thought she was depressed or suicidal."
So what changed for investigators? Apparently, after seizing Molly's computer, they found multiple searches of the word "suicide" from the day before she died. Police also found Molly's journals, with several references to her unhappiness with life. And on top of all that, there was a handwritten note found on the floor of her bedroom which police say spelled everything out.
"It didn't mention the word 'suicide,'" said Larry. "It was a goodbye letter, it was written a year prior. Right after she had the cancer scare. And I believe she thought was gonna die of cancer."
But then, it wasn't just what police collected in Molly's bedroom.
Detective: "All right. You have two light scratches in the middle of your back. What are those things from?"
Wes Romack: "I have a fairly physical job."
Though Richie Minton refused to give a statement to police, his roommate Wesley Romack agreed to go on the record.
Romack: "It's open knowledge that she's had very suicidal thoughts for quite some time."
Romack, who says he was friends with both Richie and Molly, was at work at his night job when everything happened.
Romack: "I worked until about 5:30. My cellphone had died so I plugged my cellphone in. And I checked my messages, I'd had a few from Molly."
Investigators believe those messages were sent just before she died.
Detective: "She sends you a text about 4:40 in the morning. You're still at work, I guess, right? Do you remember what that text said?"
Romack: "The last text she sent me, all I remember was it said he had been texting another girl, asking her to stay the night, and that he was so drunk he couldn't walk, and she also apologized if I came home to anything dramatic."
Actually, what the text said was: "I think I'm gonna shoot myself in the head. I'm really really sorry if you come home to that."
Detective: "And so about 7 or 7:30 you go to sleep. What's the next thing that happens after that?"
Romack: "I wake up to Richie opening my door and saying 'Molly's dead, help, I can't find my phone.'"
Wes's comments; that text; they sure seemed to support the same conclusion Richie Minton reported in the beginning. But Molly's loved ones vehemently disagree, and her dad says he can refute every piece of so-called evidence authorities have.
How does Larry Young explain that suicidal text that night when she died?
"He did it," said Larry. "Typed her phone in. A text is not handwriting or fingerprints. Anybody -- my wife types half of my texts. He had control of her phone that morning."
And he's not the only one saying that Molly didn't send that text. As part of the Young family's search for answers, Molly's father has assembled a committee of civilian investigators, including veteran police officer Charles Lamont.
"I was a policeman for the city of Mount Vernon for over 33 years. I retired as a captain," said Lamont.
But he admits that more than any other case he's ever worked, this one is personal. Molly Young is Charles Lamont's niece. At what point did he switch roles from grieving uncle to backseat investigator?
"It was when I saw that the investigation was bent, if you will, toward an investigation of Molly and very little, if anything, had been done as far as Richie Minton goes," said Lamont.
In fact, while police seized Molly's computer the day she was found dead, officers didn't collect Richie's until roughly two months later.
And when it comes to what police found on Molly's computer -- does he find it at all suspicious that investigators say when they checked Molly's computer, there were very recent searches on "How to kill yourself?"
"No, it doesn't concern me at all," said Lamont.
He says that's because an interview with one of Molly's friends revealed she was with him at a local club the night those searches were made.
"When they were at the concert is the approximate time those searches appeared on her computer, but she didn't have her laptop with her," said Lamont. "I am just simply stating she was at a concert when searches were made on her computer."
And then there is the physical evidence.
"She was shot in the top of the head with his gun execution-style," said Molly's dad Larry Young.
And on the left side of her head, using what looked like her left hand. But Molly was right-handed. And that's not all.
"There was no gunshot residue on Molly's hands and her fingerprints weren't on the gun," said Larry.
Now, to be fair, Richie Minton's hands also tested negative for gunshot residue. But remember, he got to wash up first.
A lot has been made about the fact Richie Minton was permitted to change clothes and wash his hands. Does former Carbondale Police Chief Jody O'Guinn find that inappropriate?
"I do not," said O'Guinn. "The evidence that they would have obtained from even his filthy hands was not enough to prove whether or not he did the crime or not. So the hand-washing thing is really inconsequential."
But what about basic crime scene protocol? Why didn't anybody bag his hands?
"I don't know why that didn't occur. No one told me that they allowed him to wash his hands," said O'Guinn.
Was there disciplinary action taken?
"No, there was no disciplinary action taken because no one would admit to me that they allowed him to wash his hands," said O'Guinn.
Months after Molly Young's death was classified as suicide, everything was set to change once again.
"I've been alone a long time..."
"Richie.... All I ever wanted was to be with you, and I'm sorry that I made that so hard."
"Mom and Dad... I love you... It's not your fault."
These are just a few of the words found in what investigators are calling Molly Young's suicide note. But Molly's family says police have it all wrong.
"It was found in her bedroom, it wasn't found at the scene," said Molly's father Larry Young.
And, he says, the note never specifically mentions suicide, and was actually written up to a year before her death.
"One of her best friends, he read that note like three or four months before. Molly showed him that note," said Larry.
And that's just one of many reasons he and others believe Molly's death was not a suicide. Another?
"Richie said that he slept through the gunshot that would have been within feet of him," said Molly's sister Holly Powell.
"It depends on the individual. Each person is different how they sleep," said former police chief Jody O'Guinn. "When a weapon is fired it depends on how close it may be to an individual's skin, whether or not that sound is muffled, so there are a lot of variables there. Is it something that I would think I would sleep through? No. Is it something I think is possible for someone to be able to sleep through? Yes. Likely? No."
And yet, being passed out drunk was Richie Minton's story. But if Molly Young's loved ones don't believe that, what do they think really happened the morning she died?
"I think Richie Minton called Molly at 3 o'clock in the morning, according to our records," said Larry Young.
"He called Molly over and I think they got into a confrontation," said Kathy Young.
"I don't know what the argument was about. But there was obviously an argument because he had scratches on his side," said Larry.
And in a finding that seems a little too coincidental, laboratory tests did later reveal Richie Minton's DNA under Molly's fingernails. Though remember he initially said he thought he got those scratches trying to give Molly's lifeless body CPR.
"The lab tests show that his DNA was under Molly's fingernails, but there's also two other unknown DNA under Molly's fingernails," said Larry. "His roommate had scratches, I believe his roommate heard the fight ensue. His roommate came in to break it up."
It should be noted that the roommate claims he wasn't even home at the time.
"And I believe Richie Minton reached over and touched his side and seen he had blood on the scratches, he shot her then," said Larry Young.
"He had many hours before he called 911 to come up with a plan, try to cover his tracks," said Holly Powell.
And Molly's uncle Charles Lamont, a former officer with over 30 years' experience, believes how much time Richie had to cover those tracks is reflected in that original 911 call.
Richie Minton: "This is Richie. My girlfriend just committed suicide."
"[The call] was staged, it was rehearsed," said Charles Lamont. "The tone of it is like a guy ordering a pizza. Not like a guy who just lost a girlfriend he once claimed to love."
Molly's father agrees.
"That indicates that she had been dead long before and that he had time to calm down, and it also proves that he's a sociopath," said Larry Young. "Because who could be calm in that situation? Unless you're a sociopath."
And while Larry Young is no doctor, he does point to other disturbing clues to support his diagnosis: One going back to weeks before Molly died, the very day she and Richie found out she was pregnant.
"At 8:47 he posted on his Tumblr page 'Drops of lead are poured down upon her head until she's dead,'" said Larry.
That's a quote from the notorious "Son of Sam" serial killer.
"I know what to make of it: He's threatening her," said Larry.
And in a surprise move, Larry, along with the rest of Molly's family, would get a chance to make that case. Ten months after Molly's death was ruled a suicide, a special coroner's inquest was convened to take another look.
"The coroner's jury was to find cause and manner of death only. Accidental, criminal, or undetermined," said Lamont.
As evidence supporting the original ruling, they provided that supposed suicide note, interviews with investigators, and:
"Her journals from eight years prior and last entry was nine months prior," said Larry.
"You can't base what happened to my sister that night on a journal that she started when she was 16," said Holly Powell. "I mean, to me that's ludicrous."
But they say that's how the inquest went.
"It was a sham. A total sham," said Lamont.
And Charles Lamont, who acted as the family spokesman, says they weren't allowed to present any of their own findings, and only got to ask a few questions.
"So I asked a question about a Son of Sam quote that Richie had deposited in one of his Tumblr accounts, and if I had not asked that question and two or three others, the jury would never have heard that," said Lamont.
But even with what limited info was presented, the jury came back with a ruling of undetermined -- not enough to call Molly's death a homicide, but more than enough to overturn the original ruling of suicide.
And most importantly for Larry Young and his family, it leaves the door open for justice.
Ten months after Molly Young's death was ruled a suicide, a coroner's jury changed it to "undetermined."
But Molly's father Larry Young says there's a ton of evidence they didn't see that would've changed that "undetermined" to "murder."
"Nineteen lab tests were done and they all disproved suicide and proved homicide," said Larry.
And were those 19 tests included in the inquest?
"No," said Larry.
But Larry says he didn't know about them either, because even after requesting police records through the Freedom of Information Act, he was denied. And so after two years of fighting, Larry filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Richie Minton to force release of the files.
"Our sole purpose was not monetary in the wrongful death suit, it was to get the information," said Larry. "Because I had no records. They fought me every inch of the way. I didn't even have the 911 tape."
Another thing he didn't have? His daughter's cellphone records, and what he found once he did get them was huge.
"Someone deleted text messages off of her phone," said Larry. "There's not one text message on it from Ritchie Minton until March the 9th."
Even though the two dated for over a year. But investigators say that phone went straight into police custody. So who would've had access?
Shortly after the coroner's inquest, police re-interview Richie's roommate, Wesley Romack, and just like that -- new information.
Wes Romack: "I got home and looked through Richie's phone. When I arrived home his phone was sitting in the common room bathroom, and I knew he'd been drinking that night, and I looked through the phone to see I guess kind of where his night ended up."
But wait: in his original interview Romack said they had to use his own phone to call 911 because Richie couldn't find his.
Detective: "I do want to recap, because honestly when you just mentioned about going through Richie's phone, you didn't tell us about that before."
So the million-dollar question:
Detective: "Did you delete anything off his phone while you were looking through it?"
Wes Romack has never been charged or even named as a person of interest in Molly Young's death. But then, Larry Young doesn't think he was responsible for tampering with Richie Minton or Molly's phones anyway. That person, he says, is even closer to home than Richie's roommate.
"His father is a forensic expert in computers that the state police go to to analyze computers for deleted history out of computers," said Larry.
Larry believes that in the four hours between when Molly died and 911 was called, Richie Jr. had plenty of time to have his dad come over and wipe the phones. Richie's father was questioned by police and denied any involvement. In addition, police reports say the parents weren't even notified until after Richie Minton got to the station. But there were rumors of others at the house that morning.
"Some people in the apartment who were not interviewed, they reported that Carbondale Police were on the scene in the neighborhood of 7 a.m.," Molly's uncle Charles Lamont, a retired police officer.
But the 911 call...
"Wasn't made until after 9 a.m.," said Lamont. "Now, I don't know how they do it, but if we had had an employee, an officer or dispatcher that did not show up for work and we could not get hold of them, somebody would have been sent to check on them. If that's the case, they stumbled across a crime scene much earlier than had been reported."
So we decided to ask former Carbondale Police Chief Jody O'Guinn how it worked in Carbondale.
"I wouldn't send anybody in this particular incident because we were told that contact was made with him, and that he was going to come in but he was going to be a little bit late," said O'Guinn.
Hold up. Earlier O'Guinn told us Richie didn't even wake up until just before that 911 call two hours after his 7 a.m. shift.
If he is awake to tell the Carbondale Police Department that he's going to be late, but he hasn't called 911 to report a dead woman in his apartment, what happened there?
"That's a good question," said O'Guinn. "It's very odd, yes."
What does he make of it?
"I don't know," said O'Guinn.
And to be fair, Jody O'Guinn no longer works for the Carbondale Police Department. Then again, neither does Richie Minton. After two arrests for two separate DUIs, Minton left the department and now works for the St. Louis Fire Department.
So we decided to track richie down to get his side of the story. Considering what he claims to have slept through, we had to knock loudly. No answer.
Our producer did later speak to Minton by phone, who declined to give a statement, and when we asked for his attorney's name, he said he didn't have one, then hung up.
As for Larry Young's wrongful death suit, because it took him so long to get police records, by the time he filed the statute of limitations had run out.
So Larry Young appealed to another authority: Illinois State Representative Terri Bryant.
"I was newly elected and Larry came to my office, mostly out of frustration because he hadn't been able to get any other legislator to listen to him," Bryant told Crime Watch Daily.
After that meeting, the group crafted "Molly's Law," which requires agencies to turn over documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act within 30 days, or face stiff penalties.
"The second component is a component of the statute of limitations, so it makes the statute of limitations five years rather than two," said Bryant.
The law passed unanimously. Unfortunately, it won't do anything to help the man who pushed for it.
Is it bittersweet for you to have a law named after your daughter and it can't help you?
"I knew going into that, that the law, it wouldn't help me. I did it for other people 'cause there's -- you can't imagine how many other people are going through what I'm going through," said Larry.
For now, the case remains open and has been assigned to a special prosecutor, though in the last report released, he cites previous Facebook exchanges in which Molly mentions suicide, as well as a lack of proof regarding a cover-up with the gun, Molly's phone or anything else, as reasons to conclude:
"Although this was a tragic end to a young lady's life, there is simply insufficient evidence at this time to charge anyone as accountable for murder." -- State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.
"It's not a case where you can put a bullet in its head and call it dead," said Charles Lamont. "It lives on and it's going to live on until we get as much truth as we can."
But there is one truth Molly's family says they don't need police to confirm.
"If she hadn't have met him, this never would have happened," said Molly's sister Holly. "I believe 100 percent she would still be here today. At her funeral I lost it and jumped on her casket and my family had to carry me away, and he didn't even come. Is that what she meant to you, was nothing?" said Holly.
And she has one more message for the man she believes took her sister's life:
"I would tell him that one day my dad is gonna take you down. Just wait," said Holly.
Attorney Robert Bianchi analyzes the determination of the cause of death of Molly Young