Tia Young, the Buford woman who plotted, alongside her lover, the murder of her husband, will spend the next several decades behind bars, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tracey Mason ruled Thursday.
At the Thursday afternoon sentencing, which was held jointly for Tia Young and Harvey “Tim” Lee, Mason ordered Tia Young to life in prison with the possibility of parole — per Georgia law, she will be eligible for parole after 30 years — while sentencing Lee to life in prison without parole.
The duo was convicted last week of murder, aggravated assault and several other charges in the death of George Young, a 43-year-old father of three who was gunned down outside his Buford home in November 2017.
“This has been hard on everybody, including me,” Mason said Thursday, prior to handing down the sentences. “I am heartbroken for the family, for the friends, the loved ones of George Young — I’ve seen you sit in the gallery and looked you face-to-face for two weeks. I’m so very sorry for your loss.”
In deciding the fates of Tia Young and Lee, Mason said she took into account how prosecutors, family and friends described George Young.
“In a way, what I do here today feels inadequate because I cannot replace what I’ve heard to be, or who I’ve heard to be, a good father to three boys, a doting son to his mother, a beloved brother to his siblings and a trusted coworker,” Mason said. “By all accounts, George Young was a good person, which is a loss for all of us because we live in a world where we could use as many good people as we can get.”
According to police reports and evidence presented at the weeklong trial, on Nov. 16, 2017 at about 11:30 p.m., George Young was returning home from a security job at Lenox Square Mall when he was shot in the chest and face.
Though Tia Young called 911, she delayed the call by five or 10 minutes as George Young lay dying on his front porch.
“(Tia Young and Lee) lay in wait,” Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern said Thursday. “They ambushed George Young, they assassinated George Young, and the jury has spoken.”
Prior to police arriving on scene, a neighbor saw Lee go to George Young’s car and remove something, which detectives later determined to be a GPS tracker.
Tia Young, meanwhile, tried to convince a friend to take cellphones from Lee’s bedroom — Lee had been staying with the Youngs since falling on hard times — and move them to her bedroom.
Over the course of the investigation, police determined Tia Young and Lee had been having an affair for about a year-and-a-half, something the two hid from detectives.
At some point, the duo decided to murder George Young, likely for his $1 million life insurance policy — a motive Mason said she couldn’t fathom.
“(George Young) was a man who ... saw a friend financially struggling, gave him a job and brought him into his own home,” Mason said. “I am heartbroken that George Young lost his life because of, and in spite of, all of his good deeds. To me, it’s unimaginable how somebody could take the life of a man who has been so good to you, even according to your own account.
“I ask myself how and why that could happen, and my impression from the evidence that I viewed is that Mrs. Young pursued (Lee), perhaps more than (he) pursued her. So the only reasonable answer to that question, to me, has to be the million-dollar life insurance proceeds,” Mason continued. “From where I sit today, looking at the faces I look at out there and even looking at your two faces, and knowing that there are three boys who are going to suffer for this, I have to say, I cannot see how anybody would believe that $1 million is worth all the pain and suffering that this has caused.”
Latanya Knowles, a friend and coworker of George Young’s, said she couldn’t understand the murder either — but that she felt justice had been served.
“I was actually happy with the verdict; it was justice well served to me, and they got what they deserved,” Knowles said. “I’m not disappointed (with the sentencing), either. I think for Tim, being the person who pulled the trigger, the decision (for life without parole) was right on. For (Tia Young), I understand the judge might be a little bit more lenient as she does have three children, their father is gone, so I completely understand that, but I hope that she never sees the light of day.
“It was unfortunate that we lost a good friend, and no murder verdict could ever bring him back.”