Family says goodbye to Riverside Deputy Terrell Young, who died of COVID-19


Editor’s note: The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association has set up a website so people can support the Young family. Terrell Young died due to complications related to COVID-19. To donate, please click here.

When Marie Hood met Terrell Young, she was 22 and he was 21.

They met at a club in Riverside. She was working in real estate and he was in the Marine Corps, and they talked outside for two hours.

At the end of night he told her he believed they were “destined to meet.”   

At the time all she could think was “what a line.”

But that line turned into a proposal seven months later, followed by a marriage of 30 years, four kids, and a thousand happy memories.

For Marie, it’s hard to imagine a life without Terrell. He was her very own superhero – strong, brilliant, and always ready to protect and serve.

Marie and Terrell marry in a Marine Corps ceremony, just a year after they met in Riverside. Photo courtesy of Marie Young

Terrell Young was the first Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputy to test positive for COVID-19. He died of complications on April 2 while Marie and their four children were home recovering from the same virus, which had tragically struck the entire family.

No one got to say goodbye to him, hear his voice, or see him one more time.

As the Young family emerges from the haze of recovery, they are left with the broken pieces COVID-19 left behind.

 “I had the weirdest, baddest feeling that night. I couldn’t talk to Terrell. He was already intubated and I had hoped we could FaceTime. But the nurse said I could when he got better,” said Marie. “I always took care of him. I was the one. I’m the Mama Bear.”

The call from the hospital came at 3 a.m. and it was taken by their oldest son, Cameron, 28, who is in his second year at St. Georges University School of Medicine. 

Young had coded and they tried for 30 minutes to revive him. But they lost him. 

The four kids — Cameron, Caleb, Cory and Olivia — decided to wait to tell their mom and let her sleep. They were worried since she had just come home from the hospital. They called their Aunt Melissa (Holts) and asked her to help them tell their mom.

The kids asked Marie to get dressed and to come to the front door. She wondered if maybe Terrell was coming home early, and they were trying to surprise her.

The Youngs, including Cory, Caleb, Olivia, Marie and Terrell, picking out a Christmas tree. Cameron Young was away at college. Photo courtesy Marie Young

But when she opened the front door, she saw her sister, waiting for her six feet away standing on a patch of grass by her car. Her kids surrounded her as her sister Melissa told her the news of Terrell’s death and she stumbled in grief.

Holts remembers how in her sister’s darkest hour, she wasn’t allowed to get close enough to hug her that morning.

“Telling her — this was the hardest part. It was just a nightmare,” said Holts. “The whole process, they just haven’t figured out a way to allow the family to ever see them again. They disappear into the hospital and never come out. The last time the kids saw their dad, he walked into that hospital. It’s just total devastation.

“People don’t get to say goodbye.”

Saying Goodbye to Deputy Terrell

On Monday, April 20, the Young family did get to say goodbye to the man they called Dad — a husband, brother, best friend and deputy. An intimate memorial was held at Ferrara & Lee Colonial in Orange, the only place that allowed the family to hold a gathering

The group was small. There were 10 family members. Each wore a mask. There was hand sanitizer on a table by the entryway.

And everyone got to say goodbye.

“The Sheriff’s Department called and let me know that when things cleared up in our country, Terrell would be buried at the Arlington Cemetery, but just with the funeral director. I cannot be there because of COVID-19,” said Marie. “So this is it. We get to see him and that’s it. It’s done.”

Family members of RCSD Dep. Terrell Young attend a memorial service for him in the City of Orange. Do to the danger of spreading the COVID-19 virus, the service was kept down to only 10 family members.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The Riverside Sheriff’s Department will hold a ceremony for Young and Riverside Sheriff Deputy David Werksman, who died just a few hours after Terrell.

For the department, the loss of two deputies – one following the other — has been a heartbreak for everyone who understands the commitment that comes with the badge.

Young was a deputy sheriff assigned to Corrections who worked at the Cois Byrd Detention Facility in Murrieta. Authorities say he may have been infected with COVID-19 after he escorted an inmate to the hospital on March 16.

Marie said Sheriff Chad Bianco called Terrell while he was sick, letting him know the department was there for him and his family.

“Terrell was really honored Sheriff Bianco called him,” said Marie. “The Sheriff told him not to tough this out. That if he felt sick, to go to the hospital.  I just remember Terrell ending the conversation by saying. ‘Copy that.’”

Terrell had taken the leap into law enforcement at the age of 37 after going through a number of different jobs through the years, including sales, recruiting for colleges, and electrical work. He had discovered there was a place for him as a first responder.

He didn’t care for the traditional 9-to-5 life.

He liked working with people and not sitting in an office.

And more than that, he enjoyed being of service to people.

With his background as a Marine, and his bachelor’s and master’s degree already completed, his move into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was seamless.

Young got back into shape, running laps around the neighborhood while he prepared for the Police Academy. He graduated in 2006 and spent the next 14 years working with the community and finding a sense of purpose in his work.

Riverside County Sheriff Chaplain Chris Suitt, a pastor and friend of the family, talks about the life of RCSD Dep. Terrell Young during a memorial service.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

He was a board member for the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, earned achievements from the State of California Department of Justice, and was recognized by the Sheriff’s Southwest Station, Temecula Police Department, for Unwavering Integrity and Faithful Service in 2018. 

“Terrell was very involved as a Riverside Sheriffs’ Association Board member. He made sure his chapter was represented on the board and that their voice was heard,” said Bill Young, president of the RSA. “He was also just a great guy, always willing to step up and help.”

A path of his own

At first glance, Young came across as quiet.

He was a reader. A listener. And someone who thought about things carefully and methodically before making a decision.

But once he did, he was fastidious in his commitment.

This is how Young got to try out for San Diego Charger coach Bobby Ross for a chance to play for the team.

It’s how he earned both of his degrees.

How he became a general contractor after the Marines.

And how he jumped into investment banking and became a stock broker at Paine & Webber.

Young was a dreamer. But he was also practical. And when he leapt for things, he always achieved.

This character trait now extends to his four children.

“My dad’s stance was always, ‘Do whatever you want, but be passionate about it,’” said Cameron Young, 28. “He was very supportive and motivating for all of us.  … my youngest brother plays basketball, second oldest is a professional musician, our sister Olivia is also interested in medicine.”

Cameron Young with Marie and Terrell. Photo courtesy Marie Young

His daughter, Olivia, who is leaning toward nursing school or becoming a physical assistant, said she always admired how her dad put people first.

“I hope to do the same,” Olivia said. “Just like my pops.”

Cameron, who is recovering from COVID-19, was able to see the other side of the pandemic as it hit his family. Everything he had read in textbooks and learned in lectures came to life, which caused him anxiety as he heard what doctors were saying about his mother and father.

“It just goes to show you that no matter how much you learn in a medical field, there is always something in nature that can throw you off guard,” said Cameron. “Every day is different these days. I feel all my feelings at the same time. It’s like the colors of the rainbow.

“It’s weird. All of our birthdays, except for Olivia, are in April. It’s all going to be different now.”

Father, faith and family

For Terrell and Marie, family took center stage.

They spent summers in Beaumont, Texas, where Terrell grew up, and the California Youngs got to experience cowboy hats and crawdads at the annual family reunion.

They home-schooled their kids, which for Marie was a surprise, since she didn’t see herself as a teacher.  

But Terrell knew they could help their children soar.

He and Marie became involved in their church, teaching Bible studies to millennials and trying to find a way to provide the generation in their community a safe environment.

Books were a focal point for Terrell. He was always researching, always learning, and always discovering.

His family has fond memories of all the kids piling into bed, while Terrell read a story from a new chapter book, like “Robinson Crusoe,” that kept the kids hooked through hundreds of pages.

“Terrell was always there for his family,” said sister-in-law Melissa Holts. “He was my protector, too. And for a long time he was the male figure for my kids. He was always quiet, very cerebral. I didn’t know how his brain worked the way it did. But when we got to see his fun side, he would really let it out with a big Santa Claus laugh. He loved talking about church, politics and sports. And if he would hear an injustice or someone in his family not being treated right, he would chime in.”

Marie and Terrell Young. Photo courtesy Marie Young

Holts said in the last several years, Terrell was unfurling from his quiet side. He was talking and sharing more, he was offering his big bear hugs and he had become passionate about church and politics. Her husband and Terrell would often get together and spend time talking about both.

“He was the most loving person I knew,” she said. “Nothing was intimidating to him. He loved challenges and the more difficult or perplexing … that excited him. When he became a deputy, he found a sense of purpose. He got to meet people who made wrong choices, and he got to give them guidance.”

A friend and a brother

Melvin Young is 11 years younger than his brother, Terrell. 

So for him, Terrell wasn’t just a brother. He was his hero.

He was the brother who took him to school in a red Camaro, making him the coolest kid in first grade.

He was the brother who would come home from the Marines and surprise a young Melvin with his arrival. And then leave him saddened by his departure.

They shared a room during their time growing up together, and Melvin admits that most of the time, he would just sleep in bed with his big brother.

His brother taught him how to install a fan, change a tire, and to think about everything from God, faith and the bigger picture.

“Terrell was my sense of normalcy. He was a comforting spirit that when he was around, I felt OK,” said Melvin. “We had a rough start.”

Terrell and Melvin Young. Photo courtesy Melvin Young

Melvin’s and Terrell’s  childhoods weren’t easy.

Their grandfather passed away from cancer when Terrell was 12, and his grandmother followed shortly afterward due to heartbreak.

Then within the same month, Terrell’s and Melvin’s mother tragically passed away.

Several years later, when Terrell was in the Marines, a cousin he was very close to died defending someone.

It was the ache of loss, early on in life, that made Terrell fiercely protective of his family. He never took for granted the love he had found with Marie.

“You know how you take people’s names and make it one? Like Benifer? That’s Terrell and Marie. Together they became something so unique,” said Melvin. “It’s a familial legacy that we have. We all love really hard and cherish our people … we were very similar in that way.”

For Melvin, his brother’s death is still unfathomable.

They had plans. Plans to go into real estate.

Plans to create a family logo, like a corporation seal, that would read “Youngs, we do hard things.”

There were family reunions to attend.

Birthdays to celebrate.

Bear hugs to be had.

And moments to hear Terrell’s infectious laugh.

“It’s all just so surreal. It was just a cough? ” said Melvin.  “It’s going to take a long time to get over. You just get to the point where you don’t have any more tears. All I know is that I just wish he was here. “

Terrell, Melvin, and their dad. Photo courtesy of Melvin Young  

Terrell and Marie. Photo courtesy of Marie Young