Who Killed Lisa Pruett
By James Renner
In the fall of 1990, Anna had just graduated from Cleveland State University and was anxious to put her clinical psychology degree to use (Anna’s name has been changed to protect her identity). She accepted a part-time position at Laurelwood, a prestigious hospital on the East Side where some of Cleveland’s more notable families seek help for their troubled loved ones. Anna worked nights and noticed one young man who often wandered the halls long after lights out. He seemed out of place. He didn’t take medication, unlike the other patients, or wear a wristband or participate in group therapy. All he really did was play chess. So Anna approached Kevin Young, the 18-year-old sitting in front of the chessboard, and asked if he would teach her. Though wary at first, he agreed, and over the next several days they formed a quick friendship. Kevin seemed to trust Anna.
One evening, she and Kevin and several other patients were watching the nightly news when the account of a local crime, the unsolved murder of Lisa Pruett, began. Kevin Young’s picture appeared onscreen as the named suspect in the teenager’s death. A couple of people in the room gasped. Kevin got up and walked away.
Anna gave him a few minutes, then went to his room. He asked her to leave. But the next day, it was as if nothing had happened. Their games of chess and conversations resumed.
But as media attention to Lisa’s murder grew into a frenzy not seen in Cleveland since the Sam Sheppard case, Kevin became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. He mumbled to himself in Anna’s presence: “I didn’t mean to hurt the little girl, I didn’t mean to hurt the little girl.”
One night, Kevin stalked off the common area and headed for his room in a huff. She followed him down the hall. “Well, maybe I did hurt the little girl, maybe I did do it,” she heard him say. Then he punched the wall. “It was like he was a different person than he had been, and it was a scary person,” Anna would tell police later. “I think I never believed up to that point that he was capable of such violence, but that night, that did it for me.”
Many residents of Shaker Heights still believe Kevin Young killed Lisa Pruett. But a close look at the evidence – some of which was never presented at Young’s trial or leaked to the press – suggests other possibilities. There are a surprising number of loose ends.
Thursday, September 13, 1990 was the happiest day of Lisa Pruett’s life. That’s what the 16-year-old told her close friends. Each moment seemed filled with good news and joy.
Lisa had a lot of friends at Shaker Heights High School. She was a fairly popular teen, smarter than the majority of her peers, with a sharp wit and a love of poetry. She was involved in a litany of extracurricular activities- student council, marching band, softball, field hockey, the school paper. She also contributed this poem for the student lit magazine, Semanteme
Flitting, floating, falling on the ground.
I freeze on children’s eyelashes, and blur
their altered vision of the world.
They see a different earth than I.
Of candy and playgrounds and eternal smiles.
I see the truth.
Cold bare trees, stripped of life andhard ground.
That day, Lisa had an appointment to get her driver’s license. She only wished her boyfriend could be there to congratulate her in person when she got back.
His name was Dan Dreifort, and the teenage boy was a bit of a rebel at Shaker High – as much a rebel as a band nerd who lived in a mansion could feign to be, anyway. He was a fan of R.E.M. and formed a band of his own called Your Mother and Her Howling Commandoes. The band practiced in the basement of Dan’s house, in a wing he referred to as “the Howling Commando room.” At school, he got into some trouble after he and his friends started wearing single black gloves and calling themselves the Black Glove Cult. He liked to get high on cough syrup too, a practice he’d picked up at church camp and introduced to his buddies back home. He hosted “Robo parties” at his house, where everyone drank Robitussin and listened to music. Occasionally, the cough syrup made him black out and act violently, according to witnesses.
Dan had known Lisa for years, but on April 3, 1990, they fell deeply in love during a trip to Germany with the high school band. At school, she wrote him notes the length of novellas. She shared with him her “Happy Book,” a scrapbook in which she collected newspaper headlines and stories that made her smile. Sometimes she recorded herself on cassette tapes, which he listened to whenever they were apart.
Eventually, their love became physical. Dan was her first – and her first true love.On September 13, Dan had been away for more than a month. So it was a welcome surprise when he showed up at school that afternoon. Yes, it was a very good day for Lisa Pruett. Kevin Young was not having a good day. But every day seemed bad to Kevin. He was starting his freshman year at Ohio State the following week, but he was mostly obsessing over news that a former classmate had been deployed to the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait. He worried that the government would reinstate the draft.
Kevin’s fears often got the better of him. On a band trip to Toronto in 1988, he had threatened to jump from his hotel balcony because a girl refused to go out with him. He was hospitalized and medicated. But Kevin complained that the medication made him feel strange, so his parents let him quit taking it in October 1989.
To look at a picture of him from back then, you’d never think that Kevin would have had trouble getting a date. He was a handsome young man, with a crisp haircut and dark bangs that reached out over his eyes. But he had a habit of ranting about blacks and Jews and how they were ruining Shaker Heights.
He spent a lot of time at Arabica at Shaker Square, where he could play chess against good players. Sometimes grand masters like Calvin Blocker, an East Side eccentric who can challenge a hundred players simultaneously, would even drop in for a game or two. Kevin was no grand master in 1990, but he was well on his way.That’s where he was on September 13. All day.
A little after 10 p.m., a friend of Kevin’s named Ken Workman came by. “Tex,” as everyone called Ken, and Kevin had become blood brothers the previous year, swearing allegiance to each other as they cut fingers and pressed them together. Tex was dating Deb Dreifort, Dan’s sister. But she had already left for Ohio University. Tex was 16 and still enrolled at Shaker Heights High School but often played hooky. He was on probation at the time for truancy, among other things.
Kevin and Tex sat at a table inside Arabica and talked for about 45 minutes. Tex told Kevin that Dan was planning to host one of his famous Robitussin parties later that night. He told Kevin that Lisa was coming around 12, 12:30, and so was another classmate named Chris Jones. Tex was planning on spending the night at the Dreiforts’ too. But Kevin understood that he was not being invited. He knew he was an outsider.Almost no one at Shaker High knew that Dan had just spent 35 days inside the psych ward at Cleveland Clinic. Not even Dan’s closest friends knew that he, like Kevin, had suicidal “ideation” and required medication. But the extended stay didn’t seem to be helping much. On a short leave from the Clinic at the end of August, he overdosed on antihistamines. His sister and Tex had called Poison Control.
On September 13, at 2 p.m., Dan was discharged. His father picked him up. Around 3, Dan rode his bike to school to surprise Lisa. He found her studying chemistry with Kim Rathbone, who lived in the house directly behind Dan’s. Before Lisa, Dan and Kim had been an item and they were still close, often talking through the fence that separated their properties or by phone until late at night. Within minutes of his arrival, more of Dan’s friends sought him out to welcome him back with hugs. Eventually, he escorted Lisa to her mom’s car.
As soon as Dan got home again, Kim came over. They sat on the back porch and talked. Kim wanted Dan to return some of the mementos she’d sent to him to cheer him up at the Clinic. Dan asked Kim to cut his hair before she left.
At 6, Dan ate dinner with his parents. Sometime around 8, Tex showed up. They sat on the porch and BS’d while Dan strummed a guitar. A little after 9, Lisa and her father pulled into the driveway, and Lisa got out to talk with Dan. She couldn’t stay long – her father had agreed to bring her by for only a couple of minutes after her evening flute practice. Lisa’s father remained in his car in the driveway while Lisa and Dan walked around the corner of the house, where they kissed and talked in private for a few minutes. When they came back, they were talking about Dan’s hair. “I want to cut your hair,” Dan told Lisa, according to Tex. He had clippers. “And I want Tex to hold you down while I do it.”
Lisa told Dan that she was going to sneak out of her house and come back around 12 or 12:30. A couple of their friends, Chris Jones and Becca Boatright, planned to do the same. Lisa left. Tex rode Dan’s bike to Shaker Square for cigarettes, returned, then left again for good.
At 11:30, Dan went to his room and listened to music. Around midnight, his sister Deb called from school. Dan’s father talked to Deb on the master-bedroom phone while his wife picked up the phone in the next room. Dan stood at the foot of his father’s bed, listening, sometimes adding to the conversation. When their parents were done, Dan spoke to Deb alone, using the phone in the adjacent den.
At 12:15, according to his father, Dan returned to his bedroom. Fifteen minutes later, the screaming began.
The screams were Lisa’s. She lay dying in the neighbor’s yard, 30 feet from Dan’s house. She had been stabbed 21 times with a knifelike object. By the time police got there, she was dead. Her blue jeans and underwear had been pulled down and off her left leg. Her dark blue turtleneck had been pulled up over her bra (though the coroner later determined that she had not been raped). There were bruises on her neck that might have been caused by her necklace, if someone had pulled on it from behind. Her open eyes stared blankly back toward Dan’s house.”Could you describe what you remember of the screams that you heard?” the detective asked Dan Dreifort early the next morning at the Shaker Heights police station. He had just been read his rights and told that he was a suspect in the aggravated murder of his girlfriend.
“It sounded like someone, a female, was being forced to do something that they didn’t want to do, and it lasted for at least fifteen seconds – I don’t know for sure,” he answered.
Dan told police that he had forgotten Lisa was coming over to meet him that night. After he spoke with his sister on the phone, he said, he had gone back to his room and was tidying things up when he heard the screams. Dan told the detective that he went to his window, which looked out over Lee Road. At that moment, he said, his father cried out, “Did you hear that?” from his bedroom. Their bedrooms were connected by a bathroom. By the time the screams stopped, Dan was in his parents’ room, according to their statements.
“My first inclination was to run outside and see what happened,” said Robert Dreifort. “Realizing I was stark naked, I quickly looked at Dan to determine if he was more fully clothed than I.” Dan was fully dressed. “I then noticed that he was wearing a pair of brown moccasins. This was important to me because I knew that he could get out quicker than me.”
Dan ran outside to the front lawn and looked toward the corner of Lee and South Woodland. Dan’s father, dressed now, arrived at the door. They both told police they couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, so they went back inside.
“I then went back to bed and began to read my book,” said Robert. Dan returned to his bedroom and continued to clean it. Then, he said, he remembered Lisa.”At that point, did you think that the screams that you heard might possibly have been from Lisa?” the detectives asked.
“No,” said Dan. “I didn’t think that for a couple of minutes, but then I thought it might have been her.”
He went back outside, he said, alone – and discovered Lisa’s bike hidden in the bushes beside the sidewalk at his neighbor’s house, at the corner of Lee and South Woodland. “Then I ran home, called her house, got the answering machine, then called 911.” He didn’t tell his parents.
“Why not?” asked the detective.
“I was too busy calling and running around,” said Dan. “I wasn’t thinking straight. I was in a rush.”
He also lied to the policeman. He told the officer that his parents knew that Lisa was going to come over that night.
As the police officer searched the area, Dan went back inside and woke his father, who walked outside to talk to the officer. Then, while police searched for his missing girlfriend, Dan went back to his room and went to sleep.According to Chris’ statement, he had decided not to go to Dan’s house the evening of the murder because he was working on a paper for school until midnight. The next day, Chris was at Dan’s house when the evening news came on at 5 p.m. TV reporters hinted that Dan was the prime suspect in the murder, and this upset Dan, he told the police.
Later, Chris left Dan’s house with two friends, Dan Messinger and Scott Fiero. Messinger and Chris were dropped off, and Lisa’s parents let them spend some time in her room. Then Chris returned to the Dreifort residence to spend the night. Sometime that evening, he and Dan and Debbie went downstairs, to the Howling Commando room, to talk about the murder.
We discussed the possibility that Kevin Young might have done it,” Chris later told detectives. “It started from Shane [McGee] and John [George], who had heard about a month before that Kevin had wanted to kill both Dan and Lisa because he had been in love with Lisa for two years and Dan had stolen her away from him.”
The supposed threats were never reported – until the next day, September 15, when Shane and John went to the Shaker Heights police.
“Somebody told Kevin that Dan had had sex with Lisa, and Kevin went nuts,” said Shane. “He got very aggressive, both his language and physically. It was obvious he was distraught. He said he wanted to kill Dan and launch war on the female race. In some context he said that he wanted to kill Lisa and Dan Dreifort. I can’t remember the exact wording he used, but he was very clear about his meaning.”
“I said, ‘He’s sleeping with her,’ and Kevin just freaked,” said John. “He was like, ‘That asshole, that asshole, I hate him. I’m going to kill him. I want her dead.’ Then he stormed off and left me and Shane.” It’s hard to say why Dan’s friends fixated on Kevin as a suspect. Did they believe he was the killer? Or did they want to deflect suspicion from someone else? Whatever the case, after that late-night meeting, they repeated damning things about Kevin.
On September 15, Becca Boatright told police that on the afternoon following Lisa’s murder, she had gone to Arabica and found Kevin sitting there. “Somehow or other, I got onto the topic of rape,” she said. (Early news broadcasts were reporting Lisa had probably been raped.) “Kevin said, ‘I don’t think she was raped.’ I told him that I had heard she … had been hit on the head with a blunt object. He said, ‘No, I think she was stabbed.'”
A classmate named Jennifer Margulies told police she had been sitting with Kevin at Arabica when he found out that Dan was out of the hospital. “Kevin said, ‘I have some unfinished business to take care of.'” Jennifer said she realized Kevin was a suspect only after she heard it from a friend of Becca’s, Kim Rathbone. And in her statement, Rathbone claimed she’d heard that Kevin had said “he was gonna get Lisa” from Margulies.
Two days later, in his second statement to police, Tex mentioned a detail he’d left out before – that he’d told Kevin at the coffee shop that Lisa was visiting Dan that night. Later, this statement was retyped into a standard police record. Somewhere along the line – and it’s hard to tell whether this happened at Shaker Heights police headquarters or in the offices of the county prosecutor – that new record of Tex’s second statement, signed by him and his mother on September 17 in the presence of detectives, was erroneously dated September 14.When he was brought into the station after 11 p.m. on September 15, Kevin Young denied ever threatening Lisa Pruett and said the conversation with Shane McGee and John George had never taken place. After leaving Shaker Square the night of the murder, he said, he returned home. Both his mother and father saw him go to his room around 11:30 p.m. At 11:45, he went downstairs and watched CNN because he couldn’t sleep.
But the detectives didn’t believe him.
From the supplementary notes of Detective Richard Mullaney: “Later in the interview of Kevin Young, he was confronted with the fact that he was the one who had killed Lisa Pruett. At that point, Young became indignant and vehemently denied that he could be the one who did that.” Kevin offered to take a polygraph to prove it. Instead, Detective Mullaney and his partner left him alone and observed him through a two-way mirror. “While Kevin was by himself, he became visibly intense and was taking deep drags on his cigarette. Young’s eyes were watering heavily and at times, he would draw his legs up underneath himself on the chair while turning sideways and assumed what could be described as the ‘fetal’ position. Also at this time, Young, on two different occasions, stared straight ahead with an intense look and mouthed the words, ‘No, no, no,’ very slowly and deliberately.”
From this moment on, Kevin was the one and only suspect. The detectives were particularly suspicious about details in Kevin’s statement that didn’t jibe with other accounts. For example, Tex had told Kevin about Dan’s Robo party at Arabica, but Kevin told police that the conversation had taken place at the Shack, a nearby restaurant. Kevin had actually met Tex at the Shack the next day.
A search warrant was served at the Youngs’ house on September 16. They found drawings of pentagrams, a devil face, and a heart tattooed with a Christian cross, stabbed and dripping blood. And his diary was equally melodramatic: “This is day one of my diary. My Mom is a bitch and I hate her. I’ll explain tomorrow.” And then: “I just want to take over the world. Make the blacks and Jews, and the Slavs and the Latins and the yellows and the Semites subordinate to us. I am worth absolutely nothing.”
Curiously, police evidence logs erroneously list the date of this search as September 14, again giving the false impression that Kevin was a suspect before Dan’s friends began to implicate him.Detectives got samples of Dan’s writing too. Inexplicably, they did not seem as interested in them, even though they are much more explicit.
In a letter to Lisa during his stay at the Clinic, Dan wrote, “I tried to kill myself. I need out of here. This place has fucked me up. After I get out, give me some time to return to normal. I don’t want you or I to make any poor decisions because of this place.”
In a note to Lisa, he quoted lyrics from a satirical but graphic song: “I’m sorry now I killed you. For our love was something fine. And till they come to get me, I shall hold your hand in mine.”
In another note to Lisa: “Some day, I’ll go too far and do something very bad and you’ll yell at me and be serious and I won’t be able to handle it. But you can’t let me get away with murder. I look at you and see what I’ve done to you. I’m a bad influence on people. Chris is another example of this. And believe it or not, I think I’ve made Kevin [Young] worse than he already was.” (He did not elaborate.)Another note: “I wanna poke your eyes out with my favorite pocket knife.”
Detectives also pulled Tex Workman’s and Debbie Dreifort’s phone records. They reveal that Tex called Debbie’s dorm at 12:19 a.m. and the call lasted until 12:54. The records rule Tex out as a suspect, but they also increase the amount of time Dan was alone prior to anyone hearing Lisa’s screams.
But when detectives enlisted the help of trained psychiatrists, they were interested only in understanding one mental patient.
A local FBI agent referred Shaker detectives to Special Agent James Wright, a profiler working out of the FBI Academy at Quantico. Wright told them over the phone that based on the diary, “Kevin Young has no ego, has low self-esteem” and that his personality “definitely fit that of a person capable of committing the crime.”
On September 25, Shaker Heights detectives and Special Agent John Dunn flew to Quantico to speak to Wright in person. Agent Wright and his staff described Kevin as a “John Hinckley”-type personality, someone who fantasized about women from afar.
They suggested he might be a serial killer. They went over strategies for a polygraph interview: Begin at night and be prepared to question him for hours, provide lots of pop and cigarettes, talk about the crime in the third person.Kevin had moved into a dorm at Ohio State and was beginning to think that maybe the whole thing was behind him. Then, on October 26, 1990, while he was on the phone with his father, there was a knock at the door. It was Shaker Heights police Sergeant Tom Gray. Kevin told his dad that he would call him back.
Sergeant Gray usually worked with juveniles. He had the “soft approach” that the profiler said would be needed to get Kevin to confess. Before the polygraph was administered, Gray spoke to Kevin at length in a room at a Columbus hotel. On hand were plenty of cigarettes and soda.
At first, he let Kevin lead the conversation, according to Gray’s report. They talked about the growing trouble in the Middle East and the threat of a draft. Gray told Kevin about how, when he was a teenager, he had to worry about the Vietnam draft.
Gray asked Kevin to put himself in the place of the person who killed Lisa and explain what he thought happened.
“Just between us?” asked Kevin.
“Yeah, just to kind of help me think through the thought process,” Gray said. Kevin told him that he thought Lisa had been riding her bike when the killer grabbed her. He said that the killer hadn’t planned the attack, that he was just walking around and saw Lisa, and when she got close, something snapped. Kevin was sure that whoever had done it would never kill again, because he was so scared when Lisa died.
Gray pushed for details that only the killer would know, but Kevin couldn’t help him. Still pretending to think like the killer, Kevin told him that the man probably stabbed Lisa from the front just a couple of times. But Lisa had been stabbed mostly from behind, 21 times.
Gray asked, “Is there any reason we might find your fingerprints on Lisa’s jeans?” Kevin told him to take his fingerprints, if that’s what he believed. He said there was no way his prints could be on Lisa’s clothes. He offered again to submit to a polygraph.
It was 2 a.m. by the time Kevin was strapped into the lie detector in an adjacent room of the hotel. Polygraph expert Tom Kohanski asked Kevin seven questions. In Kohanski’s opinion, the results of two were inconclusive. On all the other questions, he found “minor deception.” He told Sergeant Gray that Kevin seemed fatigued and should rest before being questioned again. So Gray let Kevin sleep. But the interrogation wasn’t over.
In the early afternoon, Gray treated Kevin to lunch at a nearby Pizza Hut. When they got back, Kevin returned to the polygraph room with Kohanski and took two more tests. Kevin showed deception on most of the questions dealing with Lisa’s murder. Kohanski had even confronted Kevin about this, and Kevin cried and said, “I didn’t do it.”
In his report Gray wrote, “I told Kevin that I had enjoyed the time with him but that it had been a long day and that I had to get back to the real world. I told Kevin he had to get back to the real world too. I told him that until this was resolved he couldn’t go back to Shaker, because everybody in Shaker would think of him as being a suspect. I told him he couldn’t go back until he told the truth.
Kevin reacted. He looked me right in the eyes, and with tears welling up in his eyes and deep emotion in his voice, he said he could have told me he did it, spent a couple years in a hospital, then got on with his life. But, he said, ‘I’ve got to tell you the truth.'”
Then, according to Gray, Kevin said, “I am scared. I feel suicidal. I have nothing to live for.” He said he wanted to be hospitalized. Gray told Kevin he should call his parents, but Kevin instead called his doctor, who agreed to commit Kevin, but only if he talked to his parents first. And so Kevin called home to discover that the police had executed another search warrant there during his interrogations. His mother put Kevin in touch with the family’s attorney, and the interview was over.
That night, Kevin was admitted to Laurelwood hospital, where he remained for two months.
At the urging of his lawyer, Kevin took another lie detector test, administered by renowned expert Bill Evans, who has been used by both prosecutors and defense lawyers. This time, Kevin passed. The method used by Shaker Heights had been “debunked” in 1982, according to Kevin’s attorney.Shaker Heights police could not get the prosecutor’s office to take their circumstantial case to a grand jury. Still, Kevin’s name was leaked to the media as the main suspect in Lisa’s murder. And when reporters discovered that Kevin’s father, J. Talbot Young, was a law partner of Shaker Mayor Steve Alfred, all hell broke loose. Reporters smelled a cover-up and suggested the Youngs were hiding Kevin at Laurelwood. Carl Monday staked out Kevin’s house, waiting for him to return.
When Kevin was finally released on December 12, the frenzy kicked into high gear and the rumors dragged on for months. No one could understand why the police were not arresting this young man, if every detective who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he did it. The city hired Wyse Landau Public Relations to work damage control, and police detectives consulted with another psychiatrist to try to help them elicit a confession.
Detectives supplied Dr. Murray Miron, of Syracuse University, with Kevin’s statements, interviews, writings and polygraph results. In a June 11 phone conversation with Shaker Heights Deputy Chief James Brosius, Miron suggested that Kevin suffered from multiple personality disorder and was able to dissociate himself from the murder, which was why he couldn’t be pinned down by the polygraph.
But after Brosius noted, almost casually, that Lisa’s boyfriend had been released from a mental facility that day, Miron hedged. “Understand, I’ve got a spread of one,” said Miron, according to a transcript of the conversation. “You’ve given me no other suspects. The boyfriend, anything you have – please send that along just for the sake of completeness of the file, if nothing else. Until another suspect drops out of the sky, I’d say this is a logical suspect.”
At this point, even Brosius seemed to question his opinions.
Brosius: “We’re doing just as much investigation on Dreifort as we did on Young … and the parents could have fashioned this whole story about him coming and hearing the screams and grabbing him and going outside and all this kind of stuff, but I don’t know …”
Deputy Chief Brosius followed up with Dr. Miron on July 2. By then, Miron had had time to review some evidence related to Dan Dreifort and had some concerns regarding his behavior on the night of the murder.
Miron: “[He] calls 911 on his own … and here are all these police vehicles, the crime scene being established … Dan goes to bed. I found that unusual, uh, somewhat disconcerting. But that’s academic, because it’s not Dan that we’re going to be interrogating, it’s Kevin, and whether or not he is the guy or not, we want to give the full shot … to use the best psychological coercion we can.”
And later Miron said, “Now here’s – forgive all the anecdotal sort of thing – we need to operant condition Kevin. Clockwork Orange on Kevin, if you’ve seen that film.”Kevin never did confess. But Shaker police finally got their indictment, on November 24, 1992, after two patients from Laurelwood came forward, claiming Kevin admitted his guilt to them. He was charged with aggravated murder.
Kevin’s father hired the highly regarded Mark DeVan to represent his son. He immediately earned his retainer: When Assistant County Prosecutor Carmen Marino asked the judge to deny bail at Kevin’s arraignment, DeVan successfully argued for a reduced bond of $50,000. Kevin’s parents put up their home as collateral.
Prosecutors were dealt another blow when Judge James J. Sweeney refused to allow them to enter into evidence notes that were taken by Kevin’s personal psychiatrist. Marino suggested to reporters that the notes could implicate Kevin in Lisa’s murder, but in reality, there is nothing in the doctor’s detailed and voluminous file that mentions a confession. The day after Lisa’s murder, Kevin had talked about his fear of being drafted. Lisa’s murder was only mentioned in passing, because it was on the news.
Kevin’s trial began on June 28, 1993. It was broadcast nationally on Court TV. The defense strategy was to implicate Dan Dreifort. And so DeVan had an attentive audience when he got the opportunity to question the boyfriend on the stand. The attorney asked him about the seemingly threatening letters he had sent to Lisa. Dan said they were “harmlessly funny,” and that Lisa thought so too.
When asked to explain why he went to sleep when police were outside searching for his girlfriend, Dan said that sleep was his way of escape “from what I feared had happened.”
Then, on July 6, DeVan unveiled a surprise: a statement by Edward Curtin, the police officer who was first to arrive on scene. Curtin said that Dan had told him then that he had never heard the screams.
On July 17, Kevin’s father, J. Talbot Young, took the stand. He testified that at the time of the murder, he and Kevin were home, playing video games. They went to bed at 1:15 a.m.
On July 21, after 10 hours of deliberations, the jury found Kevin not guilty.A week later, reporter James F. McCarty wrote an article suggesting that jurors would have voted differently if they had gotten a chance to see evidence withheld by the judge. Kevin was devastated by the attack. That day, he climbed onto a bridge over Interstate 271 and threatened to jump. A Mayfield Heights police sergeant talked him down.Kevin Young and his family are still fearful of the media. Though his father and Mark DeVan declined to comment, I spoke to Kevin briefly in Cleveland Heights last month.
He has filled out in the 15 years since his picture graced the front pages, his dark hair now spattered with white. He works as a painter these days, taking odd jobs referred by old friends. Even though he was acquitted, Kevin has come to realize he’s still not free from suspicion. “I’ve been on four dates in the last year,” he says. “They Googled my name and there was never a second date.”
Dan Dreifort was harder to reach. He lives in Athens, Ohio, and keeps an unlisted number. He called me one afternoon, after a friend passed along an interview request.
“I’ll talk to you if Lisa’s parents say it’s OK,” he told me. But after I got permission from Lisa’s father, Dan decided to back out.
(A longer version of this story appears in The Serial Killer’s Apprentice)