Joshua Young hopes his confession might clear his dad, who claimed sole responsibility for killing 14-year-old Trey Zwicker

By Jeff Truesdell
February 14, 2019 07:00 PM
Louisville Metro Department of Corrections

A 14-year-old was found dead in a ditch behind a high school in Louisville, Kentucky, the victim of a brutal beating.

Authorities later charged Joshua Young, who was 15 at the time, with the murder of Trey Zwicker, his stepbrother. They also accused Young’s father, Joshua Gouker, a man with a lengthy criminal past who was Zwicker’s stepfather.

Both pleaded not guilty, although Gouker pointed to Young as the killer. But at his trial, Gouker abruptly reversed his plea to guilty. He said “it just felt right” to kill the murdered teen, and that he acted alone, claiming he did so in retaliation because Zwicker’s mother had aborted Gouker’s unborn child, reported WLKY.

Gouker was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison following his confession, reported The Courier-Journal. Young was acquitted.

Now, it’s Young who claims he did it.

“Yeah, I killed him,” Young told Louisville TV station WDRB from prison, where he is serving a sentence after being convicted for an unrelated gun charge.

Trey Zwicker

In phone calls and a handwritten 2018 letter obtained and confirmed by the news outlet, Young confessed to the murder and said he beat his stepbrother to death by himself with a baseball bat, in part because the younger teen mouthed off to him.

“My name is ‘Joshua Young,’ I am 22 years old, and I am ready to get the truth out there,” he wrote. “I am nationally known and even more so locally as the boy who got acquitted of ‘killing his stepbrother.’ ”

His letter continued: “In May of 2011 Terrance ‘Trey’ Zwicker was discovered behind Liberty High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He was beaten to death with a Louisville Slugger. I killed him! I was arrested on June 23rd, 2011, and charged with the murder of Trey. I was 15 years old at the time of the murder and incarcerated for 25½ months until the case was resolved. On Aug. 19, 2013, I was acquitted (found not guilty) by a jury of my peers. But let me back up a little bit, because I skipped a few important details.”

Joshua Gouker
Kentucky Department of Corrections

Young says that on May 11, 2011, he’d gone to a cookout after school at the home of Zwicker’s mother, and then later that night he and Zwicker met to smoke marijuana behind the high school.

“I had some weed,” Young told WDRB. “And I took him out behind Liberty. And like, I didn’t really plan it. I can’t remember the exact words he said down there smokin’. But he got a little smart. And I was young. You know, my brain wasn’t fully developed, and my thought process was altered because of maybe a little weed.

“So I’m not in my right state of mind, and I just had enough of him saying little smart s—,” he said. “Before I knew it, I done hit him with the baseball bat. And once I hit him, I just couldn’t stop hitting him. And that’s something that I haven’t publicly told anybody until now.”

Young said he carried the bat with him because the two boys previously had vandalized cars. He hadn’t planned the attack, but just kept swinging after Zwicker “started shaking and making all kinds of weird little noises,” because Young wanted the sounds to stop.

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“For one, I just didn’t like him,” Young said. “He had a big mouth but no action to back it up. But for two, you know, he told on me one night when we got pulled over by the police coming home from a house party. And I had some weed on me. And he told on me about that, something pathetic.”

The bat, which Young says he dumped, was never recovered.

It’s unclear whether Young still could face a murder charge after being acquitted. But Young says that by admitting his guilt, he hopes to clear his dad, who told WDRB that he’s innocent and ultimately claimed sole responsibility for the murder only to save his son.

“He didn’t follow the plan,” Gouker told the outlet, recalling that Young had ignored his father’s advice to minimize his involvement when questioned by police. “I didn’t know what to do, so I just told them I did it.”

Young says, “I’m not hoping that he might be released because of this letter. I’m hoping that he’ll be released because justice is served and he’s proven innocent, which is the truth. They lost their chance at me.”