Unlocking History

Tales from the Cemetery: Ying and Young

Ying and Young mugshot photos overlay Folsom Prison cemetery.
Leong Ying, left, was buried at San Quentin while William Young is in the Folsom Prison cemetery, as seen in the background in 1955.

The last names appearing on the lists for each prison cemetery at San Quentin and Folsom are Leong Ying and former missionary William Young. Ying killed 11 people, including three children. Young, a former missionary, made headlines decades earlier for killing a New Jersey woman. These are the stories of two men buried in prison cemeteries marked only with their inmate numbers.

(Editor’s note: Ying and Young are the last of a five-part series of looking closer at people buried in the San Quentin, Folsom prison or the Preston School of Industry cemetery. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, or part 4.)

Ying, Solano ranch slayer, kills 11 ‘for revenge’

On August 22, 1928, farmhand Leong Ying grabbed a hatchet and rifle, turning the deadly weapons on those living and working at a Solano County ranch near Fairfield.

“After shooting several people, he walked through an orchard and attacked the family of (ranch superintendent) Wong Gee,” according to newspaper accounts of the crime. “(His) wife was shot as she came to the door shortly after her husband was killed.”

Ying fled the ranch in the superintendent’s car.

Flees in victim’s car

Using his victim’s vehicle, he traveled to the Chinese quarter in Nevada City. When questioned by police, he was calm and gave “so straightforward an alibi that they let him go,” according to news accounts.

A short time later, the sheriff wasn’t convinced and decided to personally question the suspect. When the sheriff arrived at the Chinese quarter, Ying was already gone.

Posse tracks Ying to Empire Mine

Man with numbers 45885.
Leong Ying, 45885, San Quentin State Prison.

Gathering a posse, the sheriff tracked Ying to a barn at the Empire Mine near Grass Valley. According to accounts, Ying “offered no resistance, confessed to the murders and asked for narcotics.”

He said he killed the ranch superintendent, his wife and their three children “for revenge.”

Ying told Solano County Sheriff John Thornton he had been evicted from the ranch for making unwanted advances on the superintendent’s 15-year-old daughter, Nellie. He shot Nellie in the back as she attempted to run. She died five days later.

In all, the 30-year-old Ying killed 11 people.

He was tried and convicted, sentenced to hang at San Quentin on November 9. When the judge pronounced his sentence, “the stillness of the superior courtroom was shattered by a loud laugh” from Ying.

He was received at the prison September 1, 1928, assigned number 45885. About six weeks later, Ying was dead by suicide.

“He was found dead on the floor of his cell (October 23) when guards came through the death house for the 11 p.m. inspection,” according to newspapers at the time.

After the murders, the small Chinatown in Suisun was deserted.

“As for Chinatown, that was its end. In about six months no one was living there. Little by little the many buildings were either torn down or disintegrated,” according to the December 1985 issue of the Solano Historian.

Ling was buried at San Quentin prison cemetery.

Young, former missionary and infamous New Jersey murderer, ends up at Folsom

William Hooper Young was 67 when he was sent to Folsom State Prison as a sex offender. Received July 20, 1938, he was assigned number 21856.

Young was no stranger to prison, having served a sentence in New York’s Sing Sing Prison for second-degree murder under the number 54020

Born in 1871 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, he was the grandson of Brigham Young and son of John Willard Young, a prominent businessman. After becoming a church elder in 1891, William was sent on Mormon missionary work in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Eventually, he strayed from the church, living in the Pacific Northwest as well as Chicago.

Woman killed, Young stands accused

In September 1902, the body of a young woman was found in a New Jersey barge canal. Stabbed and beaten, police identified her as Anna Pulitzer. During their investigation, authorities spoke to a coachman who said he drove Pulitzer and a young man to an apartment.

That apartment belonged to William’s father, who was away on business at the time. Police tracked William to a park in Connecticut. He admitted picking up Pulitzer and taking her to his father’s apartment, but claims she was killed by another man with an overdose of chloral hydrate crystals.

His story didn’t hold up. Detectives found the victim’s bloody clothing and jewelry in a trunk Young had shipped to his home in Chicago. They also found letters addressed to William Hooper Young in the same trunk, positively identifying the trunk was his.

In 1903, Young pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, receiving life without parole in Sing Sing prison.

He managed to avoid the death penalty because medical experts believed his morphine addiction and alcoholism caused insanity. This eventually led to his parole in 1924.

Four years later, William Young turned up in California, allegedly trying to track down family members.

While his death date isn’t listed, it was sometime after 1938. Young was buried in the Folsom prison cemetery.

Learn more about California prison history.

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