The Charlotte Observer (Sunday)
Arrest made in death of former Charlotte star Galen Young
Galen Young, a former basketball star for the Charlotte 49ers, died a random and tragic death in June when a car plowed through a window and halfway into his mother’s home in Memphis. Young happened to be sitting in front of that window inside that house, watching a movie on a desktop computer as he sometimes liked to do late at night when he couldn’t sleep.
Three months later, an arrest has been made in Tennessee in connection with the case. The Shelby County (Tenn.) Sheriff’s Office website shows that 19-year-old Miracle Rutherford, the driver of the 2008 silver Mitsubishi Galant that punched through the house on June 5th at approximately 2:45 am, is now in jail and awaiting arraignment. This week authorities charged Rutherford with reckless vehicular homicide, failure to exercise due care and not having a driver’s license.
Tamera Young, Galen’s older sister, said in a phone interview with The Observer that the family considered Rutherford’s arrest in connection with Galen Young’s death “a bittersweet thing.”
“I wish none of it had never happened,” Young said. “But she should also be held responsible. She created a hole in our family. We have a void. Galen was loved by many people, and he loved them back. He manned the grill for all our family holidays and celebrations. For the Fourth of July and Labor Day this year, we didn’t even know what to do.”
Galen Young was 45 years old when he died. He was about to start a new job in Jackson, Miss., as a high school basketball coach that he was excited about.
A junior-college transfer, Young starred for the Charlotte 49ers for two years in the late 1990s. He was a defensive specialist who helped catapult both Charlotte teams into the NCAA tournament. Young earned a first-team allConference USA selection in 1999 and the MVP of the conference tournament. He averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds for a strong 49ers team that won 23 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA tourney.
Former Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz, who recruited and coached Young in Charlotte, said Young was the “best onball defender I’ve ever coached.”
“He was just so strong,” Lutz said. “If he handchecked you, you weren’t going anywhere.”
Young was a secondround pick of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks in 1999. He didn’t make that roster but ended up playing many years overseas in places like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. After his playing career ended, he returned to Charlotte to complete his criminal justice degree, with Lutz helping to tutor him in his final business statistics course.
Because the car hitting the two-bedroom house on June 5th caused so much debris to fall and made officials clear the house for fear a possible gas leak, Young’s body wasn’t found for several hours. Originally, police thought they were only investigating a wreck that caused property damage. Rutherford, the driver, was unhurt in the crash. She was issued a citation and allowed to leave the scene.
It was only four hours later, as daylight broke around 7 a.m., that family members who had thought Young had been spending the night at a friend’s house were sifting through the wreckage.
They pulled back some boards and the computer chair where Galen Young had been sitting and found his body there. His mother, who owned the house and had been in a back bedroom when the crash occurred, made the initial discovery, Tamera Young said.
Elliott Young, Galen’s brother, said at the time that the family didn’t fault the police for not finding Young immediately after the crash. Everyone thought that Galen had stayed the night elsewhere, but he had instead come to his mother’s house and quietly let himself in after she had gone to bed.
“We don’t blame the police for not finding him,” Elliott Young said, “because we didn’t know to tell anybody to look for him. At first, I just thought we were looking at material damage. I was just so thankful he wasn’t in the house. And then — a terrible outcome.”
The house was beyond repair, Tamera Young said. Galen Young’s funeral and wake were attended by hundreds of people in Memphis, she said, including Memphis basketball legend Penny Hardaway.
Tamera Young came to her mother’s house shortly after the crash, before she knew her brother Galen had been inside.
The Memphis police department’s crash report describes the events tersely and uses Young’s given name of “Leslie.” The police department’s crash report from June said “there were no injuries reported at the scene” but that several hours later “family members found Leslie Young underneath the debris.”
“We just miss him so much,” Tamera Young said. “It’s a tragedy in so many ways. People around the world have been contacting us, asking what the aftermath of all this was, so I’m glad to be able to tell them at least something now.” The family has also established a GoFundMe page for Young’s 8-year-old twin sons, Grayson and Ellis.