Central Texas man who shot mother in the face placed on deferred probation

Kenneth Wayne Young, 58, who has been in the McLennan County Jail since the Oct. 16, 2020,
Kenneth Wayne Young, 58, who has been in the McLennan County Jail since the Oct. 16, 2020,(KWTX)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 5:09 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Gholson man whose mental health was spiraling downward when he shot his mother in the face almost two years ago was placed on deferred probation Thursday.

Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court granted Kenneth Wayne Young’s request for probation after his 77-year-old mother said she is not afraid of him and promised his violent outburst was an aberration.

Young, 58, who has been in the McLennan County Jail since the Oct. 16, 2020, incident, likely will be released from jail on Friday after he is fitted with a GPS ankle monitor the judge ordered him to wear as a condition of his 10-year deferred probation.

Young pleaded guilty in April to first-degree felony aggravated assault charges in the incident that left his mother, Carolyn Young, with gunshot wounds to the right cheek, right shoulder and right hand before the gun jammed at the residence she shared with her son on Fox Glenn in Gholson.

Prosecutor Kristen Duron recommended a 25-year cap on her plea agreement with Young and his attorney, Cody Cleveland, and argued after a 60-minute sentencing hearing Thursday that the judge should reject Young’s request for deferred probation and sentence him to 20 years in prison.

“If not for the misfiring of the gun, he could have killed her and this court would not be hearing Mrs. Young’s pleas for forgiveness,” Duron told the judge, calling Young a “questionable candidate for probation.”

At sentencing, the judge admonished Young that the slightest violation of terms and conditions set by the court could land him back in court facing adjudication of his guilt and up to life in prison. The judge also ordered Young to perform 300 hours of community service, have a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., not to live with his mother and not to have unsupervised contact with her.

“You need to prove that this was a one-time, out-of-body experience that you had and that no one will be in danger while they are around you,” Kelly told Young. “It’s all up to you. Don’t make us all have to worry about something like this happening again.”

Cleveland called as witnesses during the hearing Dr. Lee Carter, a Waco psychologist; Young’s mother; and Joe Ash, a Waco bail bondsman and lifelong friend of Young’s.

Duron called McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Michael Hutchinson, who investigated the shooting and told the judge he thinks Young will turn violent again if she allows him to remain free on probation.

Duron agrees.

“The defendant’s mother has shown him an unbelievable amount of grace and forgiveness,” Duron said after the hearing. “The state hopes his future actions are worthy of the sentencing decision.”

Cleveland, Carolyn Young and Carter all told the judge that Young has no criminal history, grew up in a happy home and never caused his parents any problems. They all said his mental health started to decline and his behavior changed after his father was killed in a traffic accident in June 2020.

Carter, who evaluated Young in jail in May 2021, said “without question” his violent outburst against his mother was an “outlier” not reflective of his previous conduct.

“There was a visible deterioration in his mental health after his father’s death in the weeks and months leading up to this event,” Carter said. “He described himself as being in a ‘state of fog.’”

Young is a “rules follower” and likely could abide by the terms and conditions of probation, given proper medication and mental health treatment, Carter said.

Carolyn Young said her son was not the same after the death of his father.

“He was just different,” she said. “It was like he wasn’t my son.”

She said after her son pleaded guilty in April, someone from the district attorney’s office called her after the hearing was over and said her son was going to prison for 25 years. She tried to kill herself with an overdose of pills after receiving the news and was hospitalized for a week, she said.

Carolyn Young begged the judge to allow her son to get the help he needs and to not send him to prison.

“I wasn’t really afraid of Kenneth,” she said. “I just wasn’t used to him being that kind of person.”

“It was like the lights were on and nobody was a home?” Cleveland asked.

“Right,” she said.

Cleveland said he and his client are pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“We appreciate the judge listening to all the evidence and considering my client’s mental health at the time of the incident and how that led to his culpability,” Cleveland said. “I think today was a victory for Kennth Young but also for other people charged with crimes where mental illness played a role in their actions.”

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