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Duluth teen challenges adult certification in July killing

Corey Devon Young could face decades behind bars if tried and convicted as an adult for the shooting death of Xavier Louis Aubid-St. Clair.

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DULUTH — A psychologist and a probation officer took the witness stand Monday as a defense attorney asked a judge to keep a Duluth teenager's homicide case in juvenile court.

Corey Devon Young, who turned 18 last week, is charged with intentional second-degree murder in the July 2 shooting death of Xzavier Louis Aubid-St. Clair, 17, during a confrontation in the city's Endion neighborhood.

The St. Louis County Attorney's Office has filed a motion to have Young certified for prosecution as an adult, and it is the defense's burden to establish that it should remain in juvenile court. It is a significant decision for Judge David Johnson, as Young would face a presumptive prison term of roughly 25 years if convicted as an adult, whereas the juvenile system would lose jurisdiction upon his 21st birthday in less than three years.

Psychologist Sara Vaccarella, the lone witness called by the defense, diagnosed Young with post-traumatic stress disorder and conduct disorder after meeting with him at the Arrowhead Juvenile Center in August.

"I think there is time for some of his treatment needs to be met during an (extended juvenile jurisdiction) designation, but it isn't my role to take on a position on where his case should be heard," Vaccarella told the court.

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But Arrowhead Regional Corrections probation officer Brianna Cincoski, the prosecution's sole witness, strongly urged the judge to certify the teen.

"I do not believe there is any place in the juvenile justice system in Minnesota that would meet both the punishment and programming needs for Corey," Cincoski said.

Corey Devon Young, 17, is already on probation after bringing a gun to school in May. Prosecutors will seek to have him tried as an adult.

Young allegedly admitted to shooting St. Clair, who had verbally confronted him over his alleged involvement in a theft. A delinquency petition filed in July states that surveillance video also confirmed witness statements regarding Young pulling a handgun from a fanny pack and shooting the fellow 17-year-old in the head just before 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday near the intersection of 16th Avenue East and First Street.

Young, who surrendered to officers early the next morning after several hours holed up in a nearby apartment, allegedly stated: "I swear it was self-defense. I felt threatened. He was saying I was a snitch and all that. I didn't know what to do."

The incident was reportedly witnessed by St. Clair's 12-year-old brother, who frantically summoned the help of police after the shooting. The boy told officers that he had accompanied St. Clair, who was upset about $400 being stolen and decided to verbally confront Young, who then produced a 9 mm handgun and shot the teen.

A 16-year-old witness also told officers that he "heard (St. Clair) claim that (Young's) firearm wasn't real" before the suspect racked the slide and started firing from 10-12 feet away, according to the petition.

After negotiations with police, Young agreed to surrender on the condition that he was allowed to say goodbye to his mother, girlfriend and young child. He reportedly declined to take part in a full interview with investigators, but did make several statements indicating he was in fear as he was confronted by St. Clair.

In having his case moved out of juvenile court, Patrick Battees Jr. will face the possiblity of more than 20 years in prison if convicted of fatally shooting Juamada Anderson Jr.

"He was going around saying I was a snitch and he came to the area with his friends, his brother," Young allegedly told officers at the Public Safety Building. "I didn't know them and I didn't know what they had. I just reacted the only way I could because I didn't want to die."

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Young had just been sentenced just five days earlier to six months of supervised probation after pleading guilty to possessing a 9 mm pistol and ammunition on school property. He also completed six months of supervised probation last year after authorities found ammo in his backpack at school, resulting in the dismissal of that charge.

Vaccarella, the psychologist, said Young received a diagnostic assessment in November 2021 identifying PTSD as an issue, but he never received any follow-up services to address his mental health. In their meeting, she said Young disclosed some history of domestic violence in his household growing up, "but tended to minimize a lot of the effects of the impact on him."

She said he's been involved in a peer group that promotes anti-social or criminal behaviors, but has done fairly well in the structured environment of the juvenile center. She described him as "resilient," but noted that there his delinquency has been "escalating" over the past year.

The likely option for Young, should his case be adjudicated in juvenile court, would be a sentence to the juvenile program at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing. The program does accept homicide defendants, though Young's age would mean his sentence could not extend beyond November 2025.

"She really was a beautiful person," Kristen Bicking's twin sister said Monday. "She would help anyone. She saw the best in everyone, and that’s what I'm going to do.

Cincoski, the probation officer, argued that was a major barrier to a juvenile court disposition. She said Young has "really struggled with supervision (and) not done well on probation" in the past. She said his school records also show a pattern of verbal and physical aggression toward staff and peers.

Under cross-examination, Cincoski acknowledged she could not envision a situation where she would find it appropriate to keep a second-degree murder case in juvenile court, given her stated belief that there needs to be a significant period of punishment to reflect the loss of life.

Defense attorney Mike Ryan also posed numerous questions about whether Young, who is Black, may have been impacted by institutional racism and whether it affects his prospects for success in the treatment and criminal justice systems. Cincoski said she lacked sufficient information on Young's personal background to form an opinion.

Under Minnesota law, it is presumed a juvenile will be certified as an adult if the juvenile was 16 or 17 at the time of the offense and if the offense would result in a presumptive prison sentence. The child can keep the case in juvenile court and overcome the presumption of adult certification only by demonstrating clear and convincing evidence that retaining the proceedings in juvenile court serves public safety.

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Judge Johnson ordered Ryan and prosecutor Korey Horn to submit written briefs next Monday, after which he will issue a written ruling.

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Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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