(AP) Two newspapers are asking a judge to reverse his order sealing the divorce records of a man who authorities say killed his sons and then committed suicide earlier this month.
Family Court Judge Peter R. Nuessle refused to release the records two days after police said Terry Lee Young suffocated his 4-year-old and 7-year-old sons, then killed himself during a weekend visit.
Attorneys for the Aiken Standard and The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle filed separate motions Tuesday arguing the judge had no authority to seal the records and asking him to reconsider.
The Aiken Standard first asked for the divorce records the day after the Jan. 8 incident, but Clerk of Court Liz Godard refused, saying “I feel it is inappropriate to release that information at this time.”
The next day, Nuessle sealed the records, citing “the tragic situation at this time and in the interest of human dignity” of Young’s wife Karyn. He also said the records could be use by law enforcement, but North Augusta police have said the case is essentially closed
The couple had filed for divorce less than two weeks before the killing.
The records could shed light on whether there were any concerns about Terry Lee Young before the killings, said Jay Bender, an attorney for the South Carolina Press Association who is representing the Aiken Standard.
“You can’t know the system worked until you have the available information that was before the court,” Bender said.
The Augusta Chronicle’s executive editor said the paper is fighting the ruling because everyone has the right to access public information like court files.
“We do not have a prurient interest in what’s in the files, and we don’t even know if we would write a story about what’s in there,” Dennis Sodomka said. “But the material may be in the public interest, and if there’s anything relevant in the file, the public has a right to know.”
Aiken Standard publisher Scott Hunter said the divorce records were public and the clerk of court and judge overextended their authority.
“Whether it is the Aiken Standard or a private citizen seeking to look at documents, public records should be public,” Hunter said last week. “We don’t believe the clerk has the right or duty to decide what is public.”
The judge has 10 days to decide whether to hold a hearing on the matter, Bender said.