‘I don’t wanna die’: Jurors hear 911 call from daughter in Veronica Youngblood murder trial

Jurors in the murder trial of a Fairfax County, Virginia, woman charged with killing her two daughters heard the harrowing 911 call made by one of the girls after being shot and mortally wounded in August 2018.

Prosecutors with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office played the recording for jurors Wednesday on the first day of Veronica Youngblood’s murder trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Public defenders for Youngblood, now 37, have argued that jurors should find her not guilty by reason of insanity, saying she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The complete 911 call from the night of Aug. 5, 2018, was played during testimony from the first prosecution witness, emergency dispatcher Jennifer Heflin.

In the recording, Sharon Castro, 15, can be heard struggling to breathe, telling the dispatcher her mother had shot her in the chest.

“I don’t wanna die,” the teen kept repeating. “Please help me.”

Heflin, the dispatcher, can be heard reassuring her that help is on the way.

“They’re coming,” the dispatcher said, as the girl cried for help. “I promise they’re coming.”

On the recording, Castro is heard telling the dispatcher her 5-year-old sister was also in the apartment.

Prosecutors said the teen wasn’t aware of it during the call but Youngblood — after shooting the older girl twice — went into a bedroom and shot 5-year-old Brooklynn Youngblood once in the head, killing her instantly, and then left the apartment.

In the 911 call, jurors heard Heflin imploring the teen to “keep breathing” and “stay with me,” as firefighters were heard breaking down the front door of the apartment and a police officer entered the apartment, announcing himself.

Castro was rushed to the hospital, where she died days later.

Recording sparks brief disruption in courtroom

The playing of the 911 call in the courtroom Wednesday was briefly disrupted almost as soon as prosecutors began to play it when, at the sound of her daughter crying for help on the tape, Youngblood screamed, “I can’t” and started to rise from the defense table.

Judge Randy Bellows called a recess and sent jurors out of the room. When they returned, they were told Youngblood had asked to be excused during the playing of the 911 call.

Prosecutors have argued Youngblood was not insane at the time of the shootings.

“She was selfish and spiteful,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kelsey Gill told jurors.

At the time of the shooting, Youngblood was involved in a custody battle after a contentious divorce and the family was scheduled to move to Missouri — a move Youngblood opposed, according to divorce records.

In opening statements Wednesday, Gill also laid out details of what they said happened after the shootings.

According to prosecutors, after shooting her two daughters, Youngblood called her ex-husband, Ron, and said, “I killed Brooklynn. I killed Sharon. I’m going to kill myself. I hate you. Bye.”

Then, Youngblood drove to the home of a man she had dated a few times. She told him, “I just killed my daughters,” and showed him the gun. The man called 911, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputies who responded found Youngblood’s weapon — a 9 mm handgun she’d bought only nine days before — on the man’s porch.

‘She didn’t snap — she slid’

In his opening statement, public defender Andrew Elders said Youngblood had endured a life of abuse, including sexual abuse, from family members as well as the trauma of being abandoned by both parents.

He said at 17, Youngblood became a sex worker for several years before initially finding stability in her marriage to her ex-husband, who was a former customer, the defense attorney said.

However, after the marriage soured, and Youngblood’s ex-husband said he wanted to move to Missouri and take the girls with him, Young feared her daughters “might be forced to relive” the trauma she had experienced if she weren’t with them, Elders said.

He told jurors, “She didn’t snap — she slid” into a deepening depression before the shooting.

The defense attorney said Youngblood suffers from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder,” which left her “in mortal fear of what would happen to her children if they were separated from her.”

According to Elders, Youngblood told a detective she “wanted the death penalty; all she wanted was to die.”

Elders also told jurors Youngblood has tried to take her own life several times since being arrested.

He asked jurors to find her not criminally responsible for the killings because “she didn’t have the will to not do what she did.”

The trial is expected to last three weeks. If convicted, Youngblood faces two life sentences.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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