Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, converted to Islam when she was a chemistry student at Mississippi State University. She was once a cheerleader, homecoming maid, and honor student when she was in high school. She is the daughter of a police officer who served in the Navy reserve and a school administrator.
“After her conversion, Young distanced herself from family and friends and felt spending time with non-Muslims would be a bad influence,” prosecutors stated.
Officials said that Young was led to ISIS in part by videos on the internet. After watching pro-Islamic State group videos, she began to see the fighters as liberators.
Before Young left to join ISIS, she wrote a farewell letter to her family.
“I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure,” prosecutors say she wrote last August.
“I am guilty of what you soon will find out,” she added.
Young pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
She faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and lifetime probation.
— Katelyn Patterson (@KatelynWTVA) March 29, 2016
Young’s fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty on March 11 to a similar charge. Both were arrested last year in August with tickets to Istanbul that were bought with Young’s mother’s credit card without her consent.
Officials said the couple had contacted undercover federal agents in May, seeking online help in traveling to Syria. The FBI said Dakhlalla and Young expressed impatience with how long it was taking for them to be issued passports.
Prosecutors said Young was the one who influenced Dakhlalla to join ISIS with her.
Jaelyn Young and Muhammad Dakhlalla were arrested when they were trying to board a flight to Syria this past summer. pic.twitter.com/AbfLquAQ7p
— Pranaav Jadhav (@pranaavj) March 11, 2016
“Young continually asked Dakhlalla when they were going to join [the Islamic State group] and began to express hatred for the U.S. government and to express support for the implementation of Sharia law in the United States,” stated prosecutors.
On her Twitter account, Young said that the only thing that was impeding her from going to Syria was lack of money.
“I just want to be there,” she said.
Citing her skills in chemistry, Young said she and her fiance could serve as medics treating the wounded.
“Do not alert the authorities,” Young wrote in the farewell letter to her family.
“I will contact you soon. I am safe. Don’t look for me because you won’t be able to retrieve me if you tried. I am leaving to become a medic,” she said.
The couple is waiting to be sentenced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.