Man convicted of 1999 stabbing death of UofM student taken off death row

Updated: Oct. 8, 2019 at 5:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Mississippi man was given a second chance at life after accepting an offer of life without parole when his death sentenced was tossed.

On Nov. 20, 1999, then 24-year-old Hillary Johnson, a University of Memphis graduate student, was carjacked by a man near her Midtown apartment at McLean and Linden. Authorities arrested Leonard Young nine days later. They say he confessed to stabbing Johnson to death and hiding her body in a remote wooded area off Highway 64 near the Shelby and Fayette County line.

In 2002, a jury convicted Young and sentenced him to death.

According to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office, the conviction was upheld on appeal, but the death sentence was vacated because his defense lawyers were found to be ineffective in the sentencing phase of the trial.

Young, now 74 years old, agreed to the new sentence rather than a new hearing in which he could again face the death penalty. The DA’s office says Young’s 72-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and theft of property in the Johnson case will not change.

Johnson’s family approved the new sentence rather than relive the case.

Young will be taken off Tennessee’s death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville and moved to general population status.

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