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Threats to children were coercion, man says

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Christopher Young

Christopher Young

PROVO — A jury deliberated late into Thursday night about whether a man who threatened to kill himself and his children by driving off a mountain really had murderous intentions.

Christopher Young, 36, is charged with three counts of attempted aggravated murder and three counts of child abuse for allegedly taking his children to a cliff near Point of the Mountain and telling them he was taking them "to see Jesus."

Young took the stand as the final witness for the defense Thursday afternoon and wept as he talked about how sorry he was for his actions, done in a stressed-out, emotionally distraught attitude.

His wife had told him earlier that morning that she didn't love him and wanted a divorce.

Young said he took the children and said he would hurt himself and them in an attempt to get back at his wife.

"Hopefully she would change her mind on the divorce and everything else," Young said. "Maybe she would realize I was being serious."

"Do you realize now that you made a mistake?" Richard Gale, Young's attorney, asked. "Do you wish you would have done something different?"

Young broke down on the witness stand.

"Yes, I do," he cried.

On April 18, Young testified, he took the children and began driving northbound on I-15 to visit a family member in Sandy to talk, instead of taking the children to the park, as he had told their mother he intended to do.

He ended up driving off the freeway, he said, after he reached for a dropped cell phone. When he got to the bottom of the freeway embankment, he had gone through a barbed-wire fence and "bottomed-out" the car, ripping a hole in the radiator.

He then drove the car to a higher spot, which was called both a "cliff" and a "hill" by the different attorneys in the case, where the car stopped working altogether. He stayed there until police found him hours later, thanks to GPS tracking on his cell phone from calls to his wife.

"You thought if you went off that incline ... that you would die at the bottom with your children?" Deputy Utah County Attorney Donna Kelly asked Young on the stand.

Young said "Yes." His final words on the stand were: "Maybe we'd get hurt, probably die, who knows what, I can't give you an exact thing."

During her closing arguments, Kelly talked about the handful of steps that led Young to the mountain top in Lehi, with him believing that driving off would cause the death of himself and his three children, ages 6, 4 and 2 years old.

"There is nothing worse you could do to a child than tell them you're going to kill them, while you're taking steps to do it," Kelly said. "Just because he didn't take the final step doesn't mean this is not a crime."

However, during his closing arguments, Gale told the jury that Young's actions that night were bad decisions, but Young never intended to kill his children.

"If he had intended to kill anybody, he would have done it the first time he went off the freeway," Gale said "Sometimes we go through things that make us say and do things (we don't mean.) Chris did some things he wishes he hadn't done. He regrets it. But he's not a murderer. He abused his children and it was wrong, but he's not a murderer."

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com