Caroline Young Murdered Her Grandchildren for Revenge

Lethal injection chamber

Joe Raedale/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Carolina Young was a 51-year-old grandmother who was convicted of murdering her two grandchildren. She received the death penalty. Young stabbed the children to death after learning that she had lost a custody battle with her grandson's father. 

Young received custody of her two grandchildren because their mother, Vanessa Torres, was deemed unfit and was sent to jail after she was convicted of being involved in drugs and prostitution.

Torres testified that on June 18, 1993, the day of the murders, she saw blood on her mother's clothing and then found her son, 6-year-old son, Darrin Torres, lying on the bed dead with his throat cut. Carolina Young had stabbed herself in the abdomen at least a dozen times. When Torres picked up Darrin and then placed a call to the police department, Young took 4-year-old Dai-Zshia Torres into another room and stabbed and slashed at her until her to death. With the child dead beside her, Young repeatedly told her daughter that she no longer wanted to live.

According to Torres, her mother Carolina Young, killed the children because she was angry that she had lost custody of the boy to his father. The father, Barrington Bruce, a Marine recruiter from Virginia, did not know that he had a son until he was contacted by the state and told that he owed $12,000 in back child support. He then petitioned the court for custody of Darrin and received it.

Bruce had arrived in the Bay Area on the same day as the murders. He was scheduled to pick up Darrin and bring him on a permanent basis to his home in Virginia.

Young wrote a letter to her grandchildren and to their father on the day that she murdered them, saying in part, "I am a very unhappy spirit now on a rampage to get even with all that hurt me and mine," Young wrote to the boy's father. "I'll be back to show you how it feels to lose someone you really love . . . your daughter. I'm coming back for her. Every baby your wife has I will come back and get." 

Prosecutor Ken Burr said that before the children were murdered, Young told a friend, "I will kill the kids and take them with me to hell."

Young's lawyers argued that she should not be found guilty by reason of insanity and at the very most should be convicted of second-degree murder because the murders were not premeditated.

The jury deliberated for just two and a half hours before deciding that Young was guilty of first-degree murder and should receive the death penalty.

Penalty Phase

During the penalty phase of the trial, Barrington Bruce testified that when he learned that he had been granted custody of his son Darrin, that he felt like "Christmas magnified by 10" but added that "a dark cloud came over me" when he found out that his son had been murdered.

Young's lawyer, Michael Berger, said that she committed the murders because she was mentally ill. 

Berger told the judge, "What sits before you is a sick woman and we have reached the point in the late 20th century where we don't execute sick people," 

Vanessa Torres made a last-minute appeal for mercy in an effort to save her mother's life.


Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde did not agree with Berger's assessment of Young, saying that her emotional problems had no effect on her ability to know what she was doing. The judge then sentenced Young to death.

In issuing the death sentence, the judge said Young's conduct was "totally repulsive to society" and "the killing of children is in effect the death of all society."

Carolyn Young was the first woman ever given the death penalty in Alameda County, or so it is believed.

On September 6, 2005, Young died of kidney failure at Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California.

Natural death is the most common way that death row inmates die in California. Since 1976, 13 men convicted of murder have been executed in California.

The last woman executed in California was Elizabeth Ann Duncan who was convicted of planning the murder of her daughter-in-law. Duncan was executed by the gas chamber in 1962.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Caroline Young Murdered Her Grandchildren for Revenge." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, February 16). Caroline Young Murdered Her Grandchildren for Revenge. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Caroline Young Murdered Her Grandchildren for Revenge." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 17, 2021).