Murder charge revived in Valentine's Day triple slaying

Murder charge revived in Valentine's Day triple slaying

April 11th, 2014 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

Michael Younger

New murder charges have been filed against a suspect in the 1999 Valentine's Day triple slaying in Cleveland, Tenn.

Michael A. "Money" Younger was one of three people charged in the the execution-style killings of O.J. Blair, Cayci Higgins and Dawn Rogers in an apartment on Cleveland's 19th Street.

Prosecutors said the shootings were retaliation for a fight at a party the night before between Blair and Younger's co-defendant, Maurice Johnson.

Johnson was tried first, in 2009. A jury found him guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. The third defendant, Twanna "Tart" Blair, O.J.'s cousin, had a trial in 2009 that ended in a mistrial and the dismissal of charges.

Younger's first trial in June 2010 also ended in a mistrial. Later, 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb dismissed three counts of first-degree murder against Younger.

On March 19, Assistant District Attorney Richard Fisher went before the Bradley County grand jury and obtained a new indictment.

Younger is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, plus one count of felony murder and one count of first-degree murder, records show.

He is being held in the Bradley County Jail and no bond has been set, jail personnel said.

Fisher could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy ordered a mistrial in the case in 2010 after Assistant District Attorney Paul Rush disobeyed one of her orders and then asked a witness a question he specifically had been told not to ask.

Bebb dismissed the charges against Younger in October 2010, citing what he said was improper communication -- in the form of nearly 200 telephone calls -- between Reedy and the Cleveland police detective who put together the case, Duff Brumley.

Now Younger's co-defendant, Johnson, is seeking a new trial based in part on Bebb's dismissal. Johnson has claimed, among other reasons he should have a new trial, that he should get the same benefit as Younger from the alleged improper contacts.

Meanwhile, Twanna Blair has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.

Blair was indicted in August on one count of conspiracy to manufacture more than 280 grams of crack cocaine, and two counts of distributing crack. She pleaded guilty to the first count and was sentenced last week to 120 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release and 500 hours of treatment for drug addiction.