Man accused in boy's death says investigators coerced him

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comApril 21, 2014 

Khalil Singleton, left, and from top to bottom, Tyrone Robinson, Aaron Young Sr. and Aaron Young Jr.

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Investigators' interviews with two men charged with the murder of an 8-year-old Hilton Head Island boy in September 2012 will be admissible when their trial begins Tuesday, but the admissibility of statements by a third defendant has not been determined.

Judge Thomas Cooper will decide Tuesday whether jurors can be told what Aaron Young Sr. said to investigators. Young and a forensic psychiatry expert who spoke at a pretrial hearing Monday contend that he was coerced into helping the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office recover a weapon used by his son, Aaron Young Jr., to shoot at a car owned by Tyrone Robinson.

Robinson and the Youngs are all charged with the murder of Khalil Singleton, 8, who was shot in their crossfire while he played outside his grandmother's Allen Road home Sept. 1, 2012, authorities have said.

Aaron Young Sr. testified that Capt. Bob Bromage told him that he and his son would be "exonerated and made star witnesses" in a case against Robinson if he helped them recover a 9 mm pistol used to shoot at Robinson's parked car on Allen Road. If he did not comply, he would face lengthy jail time, Young Sr. said.

Aaron Young Jr. shot at the car after a confrontation with Robinson, authorities have said. Robinson fired back at the Youngs as they left the area, and one of the shots struck Singleton in the torso, according to authorities. Despite the efforts of a cousin to revive him, Singleton was later pronounced dead at Hilton Head Hospital.

Bromage testified that Aaron Young Sr. eventually led him to the home of his father, Benny Young, where the gun was stored in a shed. Benny Young, in tears, testified Monday that he told his son to cooperate.

"He told me, 'Dad, we didn't do anything; we had nothing to do with Khalil,'" Benny Young said.

Dr. Amanda Salas, a forensic psychiatry expert for the defense, testified that although there was no misconduct during the interview, certain factors, such as the presence of three investigators and Aaron Young Sr. being interviewed while shirtless, led Young Sr. to believe that cooperation was the only way out.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said Aaron Young Sr. told investigators he "felt sorry about Singleton" but would've killed Robinson if he had the chance.

Aaron Young Jr. told investigators during a three-hour interview he "Swiss-cheesed" the car with gunfire to send a message to Robinson, Sgt. Laurel Albertin testified. Albertin said Young Jr. told her he "did not aim at children," and that if the men had stopped the confrontation, Singleton might still be alive.

"He said, 'If I hadn't gone down there, the little boy wouldn't have gotten hit, period," Albertin said.

Jury selection was completed Monday afternoon, before start of pretrial motions, according to court officials.

Opening statements are expected to begin at about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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