December 1, 2021

Suspect charged with murder

Defendant denies fatally stabbing man last week in Cortland

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

A Cortland County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a state Court Officer escort Harold John Young to a hearing Monday afternoon at Cortland City Court. Young is charged with second-degree murder in the death of man last week on Maple Avenue in Cortland.

The brother of a man stabbed to death Wednesday on Maple Avenue in Cortland described in tearful testimony Monday in Cortland City Court seeing Harold John Young plunge a knife into David Sears.

After Sears, 28, also referred to by police as Sears-Lopez, was stabbed and lying on the ground, Young advanced on Sears with his knife drawn, said William Lopez, Sears’ brother. But Young hesitated and backed away.

However, Young, 56, and his wife Estelle Young denied that Young stabbed Sears in statements to police, and police declined comment on whether they had recovered a weapon.

“The only knife or anything I had was a utility knife that I use at work,” Harold Young said. “I never had another knife and I didn’t stab anyone.”

Judge Elizabeth Burns ruled Tuesday there was reason to believe a felony was committed and transferred the case to Cortland County Court. Young was sent to Cortland County Jail without bail charged with second-degree murder and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, felonies.

The stabbing stemmed from an argument between Sears and Young earlier in the day and followed Sears punching Young in the face, Lopez said. Sears and Young’s adult daughter, Harleigh Young, had ended a romantic relationship, Lopez testified and Young told police.

Harleigh Young and her young daughters told Harold Young and his wife that Sears had smashed Harleigh Young’s car window that evening, according to Estelle Young’s and Harold Young’s statements.

Harold Young told police he warned Sears to stay away from his family.

“I text (sic) David (Sears) and asked him what his problem was and told him to stay away from my daughters and quit his job,” Young told police. “I told him to quit his job because he works with my daughter.”

After receiving the text, Sears called his brother upset, Lopez said.

Sears admitted smashing the car window and said Harleigh Young hit him. Lopez went to Sears’ home on Greenbush Street, tried to calm him and took him for a drive, Lopez said.

While they were driving, Sears talked to Harold Young on the phone and directed Lopez to drive to 19 Maple St. where Young was, Lopez testified.

“My brother was saying, ‘I feel like you’re threatening me. You’re not understanding my side of the story,’” Lopez said.

Sears suggested he talk with Young in person, Lopez said.

When Sears arrived, Sears and Young spoke together at the end of the home’s driveway, he said.

“My brother and this man started out talking calmly,” Lopez told police in an earlier statement, however, Sears used a racial slur and Young grew loud and moved toward Sears.

Young, who is white, stood so close to Sears that Young’s lips touched his nose, Lopez testified. Then Sears punched Young and Young stumbled into the street.

Then Lopez saw Young had a knife in his right hand and watched Young stab Sears, Lopez said.

“I saw the knife when it came down,” he said. “That’s when I know he was stabbed, when I saw the knife came down.”

Other witnesses did not report seeing a knife to police, and the Youngs denied he had anything except a box cutter.

Sears cried out, “Yo, you just stabbed me, my heart, my heart, my daughter,” Lopez told police in his statement.

“The father (of Harleigh Young) attempted to try to come back and stab my brother or me,” Lopez said, “but then he hesitated and went back into the street.”

Lopez said he scrambled to get his brother into the car, called 911 and drove to Guthrie Cortland Regional Medical Center.

When he arrived, Lopez ran inside and screamed for help, then returned to hold his brother.

“I’m just telling him, I got him, I’m here. It’s going to be OK,” Lopez said, with tears on his face. “I just kept screaming I need help.”

Emergency medical personnel took Sears inside, but did not allow Lopez to enter, Lopez said. Sears was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse where he died during an emergency surgery, city police said in a statement.

“At any time did you see your brother with a weapon?” asked Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser.

“No,” Lopez responded. Simser argued Young, who was convicted in 2015 of selling methamphetamine, committed a felony by possessing a weapon and using it to stab Sears.

“It’s clear from the uncontroverted testimony he had a knife,” Simser said.