Ronald Allan Tolleson Sr. never believed that all those responsible for murdering his 10-year-old son were brought to justice.
Although the police and district attorney have closed the case, Tolleson thinks that others who either knew of or participated in the 1980 kidnaping and killing were never identified.
Last week, the jury awarded Tolleson $5.74 million in his wrongful-death lawsuit against West Covina police, who Tolleson maintains bungled the original kidnaping investigation. Tolleson argued that police were negligent by not completely searching the main suspect’s house. A thorough search, Tolleson argued, could have saved his son.
In ruling against the city, the jury rejected testimony from Danny Jerome Young that he killed the boy immediately after abducting him. During the trial, medical examiners testified that Ronald was alive for up to four days after his abduction.
In its defense, the city argued that Young--who was convicted in 1982 of second-degree murder and kidnaping--alone killed Ronald the day he was kidnaped and that others living in the Young household knew nothing of the crime because the body was hidden.
But Tolleson never believed that.
“I don’t buy it that a child was in that house for four days and nobody noticed,” he said. “There were more people involved--I want them all behind bars.”
Police Chief Craig Meacham said investigators are certain Young acted alone.
“We’re satisfied in our own minds that Danny Young did it,” Meacham said. “We really have no reason to suspect that anyone else was involved.”
Young was convicted after two trials in 1982. The first ended with a hung jury. At the second trial, the prosecution presented no evidence that Young killed the boy, but argued that he was involved in the conspiracy that led to murder.
Young’s brother, Orville Young, was tried as an accomplice in the case but was acquitted.
In ruling against the city, the jury found that a “special relationship” existed between the Tolleson family and the Police Department, which did not live up to its assurances and responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the boy’s safety. “Special relationship” is a legal term that expresses the duty of police to protect citizens under certain conditions. City officials say the jury misapplied the law.
Tolleson said he anticipates an appeal by the city, but vows to take the case up to the state Supreme Court, if necessary. “Whatever it takes,” he said. “I’ve been through two criminal trials and now this. We’ve come too far.”