tv 2020 ABC April 1, 2016 10:01pm-11:01pm PDT
on new year's eve, it began with a bang. but it ended more quietly for this man yesterday. >> in a moment, i will read to you jury instructions. >> with everybody caught off-guard. the verdict in the case everybody has been did a young her kill herself, or was she killed? how did a new year's eve party end up with a dead woman just
after midnight? tonight, "20/20" on the inside. this stunning tape recorded as it was happening. paramedics trying to revive her. the emt taking us through that tiny bedroom. >> a bloodstain. a gun right here. is there any sign of a struggle? >> and the exclusive police video. this week, the trial four years in the making. and you're as close to being there that night as you can get. but what's the truth? a shocking suicide? >> i just can't take this life any longer, proved she committed suicide. >> or this, what a teenage neighbor said he heard. >> oh, my god, what have i done?
i shot my wife. >> what do you believe? after midnight. >> good evening, i'm david muir. elizabeth has the night off. just over 24 hours ago, a husband and father's life changed forever. the lives of two families locked in a did he or didn't he struggle for more than four years now. did he kill his wife, or did she kill herself? put yourself in the jury's seats. how would you have voted? the decision surprised many. here's ryan smith. >> reporter: drive north out of denver on this two-lane blacktop called u.s. 85. there sits the tiny town of evans where locals joke the manure odor wafting from the nearby fields is no rocky mountain high. something else smells strong here at the house where ashley and tom fallis live, and it's not just the aroma of fine wine
and other intoxicants being passed around freely on new year's eve. perhaps the scent of a relationship turning sour. >> happy new year! >> reporter: ashley and tom are a young married couple, hosting a party for friends and family, they live in a subdivision called grapevine hollow. each street named for a famous wine, though ironically, not a vineyard in sight. their house is on zinfandel, a vino with lots of alcohol and a lasting aftertaste. fitting, since when the alcohol stops flowing on zinfandel tonight, no one will ever forget. had you ever seen a case like this before? >> something like this? the ashley fallis case? no, this has been an extremely high profile case. >> reporter: james redmond has covered the story for the "greeley tribune." but there are really two stories. is it some people are on one side and others are on the other side?
>> it's been a pretty vehement divide. people feel strongly one way or another. >> reporter: both versions begin at that party. >> i met tom at the door. he gave me a hug. i hugged him back. never done that before but that was fine. >> reporter: john schmitzer, ashley's uncle was there that night. along with his wife peggy. and, of course, ashley's mother jenna fox and father joel raguindin. >> she was vivacious and fun. >> reporter: the whole idea of this party was to celebrate how good things were going. it was a new year. they were happy. they were at a point when things were going really well for them. seemingly, the end of a tough few years. when ashley met tom on a dating site back in 2007 she was divorced.
a single mother of two young girls. tom brought something extra to ashley's life. it was almost like he was a lifeline for her, right? >> some of their friends were even jealous of their relationship. and how affectionate they could be. >> reporter: it was a whirlwind. in no time, ashley was pregnant with their son blake. a year later, ashley and tom got married. but ashley's family felt tom was too controlling. >> you had to walk on eggshells around him, because you just didn't know what would touch him off. >> reporter: tom eventually adopts ashley's girls. he takes a job as corrections officer working in the local jail. she's a respiratory therapist, but soon enough, life throws this budding colorado family its first curve. blake is diagnosed with
hydrocephalus, commonly referred to as water on the brain. he needs 11 surgeries and constant monitoring. it's understandably putting pressure on the marriage. it puts a strain on the family. puts a strain on the relationship. it had to be financially taxing. >> in addition to the cost of the surgeries alone, i know at one point ashley was fired from her job. >> reporter: the tension leads to serious anxiety. she begins seeing a psychiatrist who put her on prescription medications like seroquel and clonazepam. >> she did have anxiety in her life. including tom. i can't blame her for being on anti anxiety drugs. >> it was a real rough patch in their marriage. >> reporter: so rough, apparently, tom discovers ashley has even had an extramarital affair. there's talk of divorce. but by the fall of 2011, they are still together.
the desperate former respiratory therapist tries to breathe some life into things. the couple takes a cross-country trip to washington, d.c., where she testifies before congress about her family's experience with hydrocephalus. were you proud of her at that point? >> oh, yeah. >> ashley is not backing down on a challenge. that's who she was. >> reporter: tom is proud too. back home, ashley finds a new job and the couple seems to be healing. and then an apparent christmas miracle. ashley believes she's pregnant and takes a home pregnancy test. >> her tubes had been tied after her son. >> reporter: so, totally unplanned, not expected. did they want to have children? >> they were extremely excited about it. >> reporter: that's why they were so ready to celebrate at that new year's eve party. but just hours before the guests arrive, a blow. ashley says she's bleeding. she believes she's suffered a miscarriage.
>> this wasn't the first miscarriage. she was a tough cookie. >> i think tom was far more affected by it than ashley was. >> reporter: whatever she is thinking, ashley is ready to have a good time. she has a few drinks. and jello shots. around 11:00, tom and ashley seemingly feeling no pain. dancing together to their favorite song, "18th floor balcony" by blue october. but just an hour later everything changes. right around midnight, as the new year dawns. marijuana joins the party and tom is upset about it. >> this is like, "whoa. what just happened here?" i mean, we went from a really fun party to tom's throwing a fit. >> reporter: it became clear to tom that ashley had gotten a marijuana joint from her uncle and that she wanted to go outside and smoke it. he was angry about that. upset about it. >> it wasn't like she was going to do heroin.
it wasn't like she was going outside to drop acid. so i'm looking at him with a little bit of disbelief, going, "seriously? seriously, this is why you're so mad?" >> that's what set him off. that's what he threw his fit about. she was partying and having a good time and he was like, nope that's not going to happen. >> reporter: it's clear it's time for everyone to leave, but as they depart no one had a clue what was about to happen. >> married couples have fights every day. but it's not every day the argument ends with someone dead on the floor. >> reporter: in the bedroom, tom and ashley are alone. arguing. on the surface it's about the marijuana, but there's all that built-up tension underneath. and suddenly, without warning -- [ gunfires ]
>> what is the nature of your emergency? >> reporter: a frantic call to 911. >> my wife just shot herself in the head. please help me. >> reporter: tom screaming for help. >> ashley, no. ashley, no. >> reporter: it's a gunshot wound to the head. he tells them it was suicide. >> you are not leaving me. you are not leaving me. >> reporter: you're watching actual video recorded by an officer's body cam as police and paramedics rush to the scene. tom is removed from the crowded room as they work on ashley in the narrow space between the bed and the wall. >> it was a dynamic, fluid scene. there was a lot of people there. her family had returned to the scene. there was some yelling and screaming going on in the front yard between tom fallis and family members. >> reporter: tom is a powder keg of emotion, recorded hurling blame at ashley's family outside. meantime, the medics are lifting
ashley off the floor, rushing her to the hospital. doctors desperate to save her life. but tom isn't with her. he is in here, in a police interrogation room. >> i didn't shoot my wife. i wasn't even by her. >> reporter: when we come back -- do the police think it's all an act? ashley's mother sure does. do you feel like tom got away with murder? >> oh, yeah. absolutely. >> reporter: stay with us. just gotta get the check. almost there. i can't reach it. if you have alligator arms, you avoid picking up the check. what? it's what you do. i got this. thanks, dennis! if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. growwwlph. it's what you do. oh that is good crispy duck.
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>> reporter: 2012 is not even an hour old, and the small evans colorado police department is already dealing with its first violent death of the year. do you see a lot of violent crimes in this area? >> we probably average one or less homicides a year. and unfortunately a number of suicides. they're not uncommon. >> reporter: evans police chief rick brandt, whose department responds. sergeant dan ranous shows me what the scene was like.
>> she was laying on the north side of the bed. she was not breathing, but her throat muscles were moving, indicating she was trying to breathe, but the obvious issue was the trauma to her head. >> reporter: what does the room look like from what you remember? >> i distinctly remember the blood spatter on this north wall. i also remember seeing the bullet hole in this east wall. >> reporter: is there anything on the ground? >> there are two pictures on the ground over here, and i distinctly recall the tv was playing the times square new year's eve celebration. >> reporter: a woman shot with only her spouse in the room is always cause for suspicion. >> tom, my name is rita. i don't know if i ever met you before. >> reporter: tom fallis has volunteered to come to the police station to answer questions from detective rita wolfe. >> he's the only witness to a gunshot wound situation. so we want to hear what he has to say. >> what's your wife's name? >> ashley. [ cries ] i want to see her. i want her to be okay. >> reporter: it's emotional. tom is distraught. still wearing the blood stained
t-shirt. and at this moment, apparently still hoping ashley will survive. as a video camera records it all. >> reporter: are you suspicious of him at that time? >> i would say he was under suspicion at that time. you want to pin somebody down to a story and then you want to keep going over the story to see if it changes. >> reporter: tom's story starts with the trauma before that new year's eve party. >> so she was kind of down today. >> reporter: ashley, devastated when she believes she's suffered a miscarriage. >> we just lost, could've lost -- or had our third miscarriage. do you know how depressing that is for a woman? >> reporter: especially for ashley, he says. >> all day she had been talking about it. >> reporter: knowing how unlikely another pregnancy would be since she had her tubes tied after their son blake was born -- which tom says was her mother jenna's idea, just one source of lingering resentment between them. >> this was no brady bunch, right?
fallis didn't get along with ashley's family. there's just no two ways about it. >> reporter: still, he tells detective wolf ashley was holding up okay most of the night. >> we danced to our song just an hour and a half before this. >> reporter: but remember when ashley's uncle asked her to smoke marijuana? that is when tom says everything went south. >> she's wanting to do it because she's so down because she's just had either a false positive or a miscarriage. >> reporter: that's when he admits he flew off the handle. yelling at ashley's family as he stomps upstairs to the bedroom. >> i turned around and made a comment, i was like -- she doesn't need to get [ bleep ] high. she doesn't need to take your advice, just like she didn't need to [ bleep ] have her tubes tied. i walked into our room. that was the only negative thing that was said the whole night. >> reporter: now he says he goes into the walk-in closet to change his clothes. >> i was standing right here. >> reporter: at one point he
even sketches out where he was as ashley enters. >> she's going, i'll [ bleep ] do what i want and i said fine do whatever you want. i was pissed. i probably said, do whatever the [ bleep ] you want. >> reporter: he says they're on opposite sides of the bed in this tiny room. tom still lashing out at her from inside that closet. >> i did swear at her. i did tell her go [ bleep ] do whatever the [ bleep ] you want. >> reporter: ashley is either kneeling or sitting on her side of that bed, tom says. he can't really see her. but he can hear her cocking a gun. >> she has a 9-millimeter taurus that she keeps on the gun rack. i looked out and i was like what are you doing and before i even had a chance to finish my sentence or close the door. there was smoke. i heard it. and it was just smoke. >> reporter: tom says he tried
to staunch the blood coming from his wife's head, while he called 911. >> so you're saying, no fighting at all. that she for some reason just takes a gun out and shoots herself for some unknown reason. >> i already told you what happened. >> that wound on the back of her head isn't where she could do it herself, tom. >> [ bleep ] >> it is not. >> [ bleep ]. [ bleep ]. [ bleep ]. >> if you get upset like this -- >> you're accusing me of killing my wife. i'm not supposed to get upset? that doesn't make sense. >> reporter: and that's when detective wolfe reveals officers already have learned something incriminating from a next door neighbor. >> there was somebody awake. and they actually heard your argument and your conversation between you and your wife. >> really? what conversation is that? >> she's telling you, get off of me. get off of me. and you're saying, don't leave me. don't leave me. >> i didn't say that! >> that's hard for me to believe. >> reporter: he denies anything
more than a verbal battle. but the more she presses, the more heated it gets. >> i didn't shoot my wife! >> tell me what happened then. tell me what happened. >> i just told you. >> why do you have those scratches on your body? >> reporter: she's referring to these. what look like red abrasions on tom's chest. but he insists he shaved there as a surprise for ashley. and any marks they see came from his own scratching. because he says it's itchy. >> okay. see this? this is a shaved chest. do you know how bad this hurt and itches? when i'm sitting there, i do this all freaking day. >> i mean, really? i shaved my chest for the first time in my life today? and got scratches all over myself? >> reporter: but the detective is skeptical. >> those scratches, you need to explain. >> reporter: and with the tension mounting. >> tell me what's going on with my wife. please.
>> reporter: the detective breaks the news. >> i have to let you know, your wife did not make it. your wife did not make it. [ crying ] >> she was breathing. she was breathing when i was holding her. she was breathing. they told me she was breathing when she left the house. i didn't shoot my wife. i wasn't even by her. >> reporter: tom is sticking to his story. >> i didn't do this. oh, my god. i'm telling you right now. >> reporter: after about two hours the detective gives him a compassionate touch. and with still no admission of guilt, she has no reason to hold him. tom is free to go. you let him go. why? >> if nothing else, it didn't appear to be a solid or a clear homicide. and we knew we had a lot of work to do. >> everybody that i talked to said, i'm at a loss for words.
>> reporter: tom delivers a eulogy at the funeral five days later as ashley is laid to rest. and so it seemed was the case, that is until two years later. >> fox 31 denver investigation is leading to a new police probe. >> reporter: when something was unearthed on this newscast, actually someone no one ever expected. stay with us. sure, we cor put them stacked on a rack.s. but the specialists at ford like to show off their strengths: 13 name brands. all backed by our low price tire guarantee. yeah, we're strong when it comes to tires. right now during the big tire event, get a $120 rebate by mail on four select tires. that are lighter in calories
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>> reporter: two years have passed. the ashley fallis case is officially a suicide. closed. that house on zinfandel, empty. but for ashley's mother jenna, every day is still new year's day. she is fighting on. >> she was like a dog with a bone. she would not let it go. when police would not cooperate with the mother, jenna fox, she found somebody that would, a reporter. >> for over a year, we've been investigating the death of ashley fallis. >> reporter: then finally, more than two years after ashley's death, in the spring of 2014, this report on a local fox station reared in like a denver bronco. shocking new information and one damning account. >> it was right here. >> reporter: teenager and next door neighbor nick glover, at home playing video games with a friend on that fateful night, who was peering out his window, overhearing the commotion
outside the fallis house. his earth-shattering revelation -- >> i remember him distinctly say, "i shot her." >> reporter: he says he heard fallis confess. so why didn't the police know this two years earlier? well, according to glover, they did. the teen claims he told detective mike yates about it on the night of the incident. but somehow, it never ended up in yates' report. do you think in any way your department mishandled this case? >> no. >> reporter: still, in the event that it was a case of keystone cops -- or worse, a cover up -- evans police chief brandt orders the investigation reopened. >> within the last hour, evans police announced they are reopening the investigation. >> reporter: and not only was there to be a new investigation, it would be with fresh eyes. the nearby ft. collins police would handle the case, and loveland police would examine how the original police work was handled. >> the grand jury met for three days. >> being indicted by a grand jury. >> reporter: seven months later, a grand jury hears the new evidence, and tom fallis is
indicted for murder. >> authorities arrested the former weld county deputy earlier this week. >> reporter: but where is tom fallis? the house they lived in, sold. eventually, police tracked him down in indiana. he'd moved there with the kids, he says, to be near his sister. >> tom fallis arrested in indiana. >> reporter: he is arrested in november of 2014, and just three weeks ago, more than four years after the shooting -- >> all rise. >> reporter: -- tom fallis is in this courtroom, on trial for second degree murder. >> the whole trial is going to come down to one question -- does the jury believe ashley shot herself, or does the jury believe tom fallis murdered his wife? >> reporter: which is the truth? >> the prosecution does not have an easy case here, because they have this enormous legal burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. >> reporter: for starters, the jury hears plenty about tom's behavior that night. >> it started to really change after tom blew up and started cussing and throwing a fit. >> reporter: ashley's mother
jenna, who's been waiting an eternity for a chance to testify against tom, describes a man unhinged and out of control before the shooting. >> he told me he [ bleep ] hated us all and wished we would all die. >> the heart of the prosecution's case is that tom is angry and enraged before this happens. that's a critical part of the case. >> reporter: then it's star witness nick glover's turn on the stand, the young man from that tv report testifying about a midnight confession after the shooting. >> i heard him saying, "oh, my god, what have i done? oh, my god, what have i done?" he proceeded to say "i shot my wife." you can't hear something like that and forget about it. that's going to be embedded in your mind for years to come. >> reporter: the prosecution's case is building. nick's mother kathy testifies about a critical phone call she says she got that night from chelsea arrigo, a family friend who was visiting her boyfriend nearby. kathy claims arrigo told her she heard a struggle between tom and ashley.
>> she said, "because your neighbor just shot his wife." i said, "what?" she said, "i could hear her screaming, get off me, get off me." >> reporter: and then there's this -- a pivotal witness. >> he said, you know, "go watch that guy in the driveway." >> reporter: chris graves, a former weld county sheriffs deputy on the scene to assist the night of the shooting. >> i heard him screaming, "i can't believe i shot her." and "i can't believe she's dead." >> reporter: but if these earwitness accounts aren't strong enough, the prosecution has even more -- a criminalist with a new theory. >> if she were to shoot herself -- >> reporter: jonathyn priest, a former denver police officer who now does professional crime scene reconstruction. in a model bedroom built in the courtroom -- >> i don't have a lot of blood here. >> reporter: -- he tells the jury after looking at pictures of the evidence, he has serious concerns about the amount of blood on the carpet, the position of ashley's body, and the pattern of blood spatter on
the bedroom wall. >> so i have a lot of problems with this being that suicide, or an unassisted suicide. >> reporter: at one point, this wasn't looking too good for tom fallis, was it? >> there's been a lot of stuff that paints tom as this angry, volatile husband, as someone who was angry at ashley that night, who was fighting with her. >> reporter: but what if everything the jury has heard so far is wrong? >> i have to pretend to be happy. >> reporter: would a note ashley left behind solve the mystery? >> was she a high risk to commit suicide on that date? >> yes. >> reporter: stay with us. are the ones you take yourself. but just in case that absolutely 100 percent perfect choice... ...turns out to be... less than perfect...
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dropped, ushering in 2012, no one knew it would be dick clark's last "rockin' eve." nor did anyone know it would be ashley fallis' last one too. >> ashley fallis, who mysteriously died after a family get-together. >> reporter: now, during a trial more than four years in the making. >> he's as angry as you can imagine, and it's all directed at her. >> reporter: her husband, tom fallis, stands accused of her murder, and the prosecution is painting a pretty ugly picture. >> his chest is puffed up. his fists are clenched. he's red. he's agitated. >> reporter: but, their case is about to crumble. >> tom fallis did not kill his wife. >> reporter: but the defense tells the jury exactly what tom said from the moment he first called 911. ashley shot herself. >> please help me! please help me! >> reporter: the jurors hear that entire 911 call. some are in tears as they listen to the couple's screaming children that night.
>> mommy! >> reporter: but tom is obviously distraught himself. and as much as the courtroom had been told he was in a rage the night ashley died, tom's parents, his mother, anna, and father, jim, say it was completely different. they were at the house too that night. >> when you talked to tom on the phone at that time, he was hysterical. >> yes, he was crying. >> and he said he needed you to come back. >> yes. >> because ashley shot himself. >> yes. >> did you ever hear him say, "i shot her?" did you ever hear tom confess at that time to shooting ashley? >> never. >> reporter: and remember jenna fox, ashley's mother, who was as vocal as any witness about her suspicions that tom shot her daughter? on cross-examination, defense attorney dru nielsen reveals some deep, troubling family history. >> your mother committed suicide?
>> she did. >> and your brother committed suicide? >> he did. >> reporter: both relatives coincidentally ending their life with a gun. and it's that propensity for suicide that tom fallis' defense lawyers plan a field day around, lobbing a grenade into the proceedings, telling the jury ashley had penned her own suicide note months before. >> "i just can't take this life any longer." ashley's own words proved that she committed suicide. >> reporter: and another shoe is about to drop. this man, dr. michael allen, an international expert on suicide, says she gave off many red flags. >> my opinion is that she had many risk factors and warning signs. >> do you believe that ashley fallis was a high risk to commit suicide on january 1, 2012? >> yes. trial might never be happening >> reporter: and remember, this trial might never be happening
if not for the claims that tom, himself, supposedly confessed. suddenly, that narrative is being debunked too. detective mike yates interviewed that teenage eyewitness, nick glover, who came forward two years later, claiming he told yates about it that night. >> did nick glover ever tell you he heard tom fallis say, "i shot my wife?" >> no. >> are you certain nick glover didn't say that? >> i am certain. >> reporter: another disaster for the prosecution, former deputy chris graves testifies that he heard tom fallis confess to killing his wife. but the defense questions why he waited two years to report this alleged confession. >> one month later you were fired? correct. >> yes. >> terminated for lack of candor, correct? >> yes. >> terminated for lack of honesty? >> yes. >> reporter: and the other officers on the scene say they never heard any such thing. >> at any point throughout this investigation, did you hear
mr. fallis indicate that he shot his wife? >> no. >> no, ma'am. >> no, ma'am. >> reporter: if you think things couldn't get worse, just listen to crime scene investigator dan gilliam. he's a witness for the prosecution, but after more than 400 hours in a lab endlessly recreating the shooting, he agrees with the defense that this was no murder. >> you believe what occurred was a suicide? his wife shot herself in the head, correct? >> correct. about, like, that. >> reporter: the defense tells the jury whoever fired that weapon would have gun shot residue, or gsr, on their hands. >> ashley fallis had gsr on both of her hands. tom fallis didn't have any gsr on his hands. >> reporter: but still ahead -- just as the case is about to close, remember ashley's affair? her former lover is about to take the stand. could he be the motive for murder? >> you has an extramarital affair with ashley fallis?
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after midnight continues, now, on "20/20." >> reporter: just yesterday in greeley, colorado, just as in every case, in every courtroom, in our system of justice, comes this final electrifying moment between crime and punishment. >> ms. carrasco, you may make your closing arguments. >> reporter: closing arguments. arguing, just like the people of this community have been doing all these years, ever since ashley fallis died of a gunshot wound in her own bedroom, her children just down the hall. >> four years, two months, and 31 days have passed since ashley fallis died in the early morning hours of january 1st,
2012. and after 13 days' worth of testimony from over 40 witnesses, the responsibility in this case is yours. >> reporter: but now, tom fallis' freedom is on the line. the prosecutor gets the first crack. chief deputy district attorney anthea carrasco, projecting a smiling photo of ashley fallis and her son, the youngest of her three children. >> the most important number in this case is 12. and that's the 12 of you. >> reporter: the prosecutor is measured. methodical. merciless. her incriminating evidence aimed as precisely as knives in a carnival act. showing the jury bloody clothing. that crucial blood pattern. >> you've got blood in this area. >> reporter: the prosecutor even going down on her knees several times, demonstrating the impossibility, in her view, of ashley shooting herself. >> she basically would have had to have been on the ground, knees pointing at the
nightstand, turned this way to look at him across the bed. what's the problem with that? that's not what he said. that's not at all what he said. >> reporter: she urges jurors to question, "why so much blood on tom's shirt?" >> what is his explanation as to how you get so much blood on those shirts? what he demonstrated to you on the ground is essentially the defendant would have to be on his knees, hovering over her, essentially his whole upper body over her head. but what's the problem with that? nobody said that. we are asking that you go back in that jury room, that you give this case the attention it deserves, and that you return the verdict that justice demands. >> reporter: then, it's defense attorney iris eytan's turn. she begins the way she started three weeks earlier, standing behind her client, tom fallis, with her hands on his shoulders. >> he is innocent. he is not guilty. he did not do this. he loved his wife.
>> that was theater at its best. that humanizes fallis. that shows that she's not afraid of him. i think it very likely had an impact on the jury. >> reporter: the day before, any wild speculation that tom fallis would testify, and tell the jury directly in his own words what happened, was laid to rest with a quiet pro forma exchange with the judge. >> so have you a decision? >> i have. >> and what is your decision? >> i will not testify. >> reporter: the defense may have felt they did enough damage to the state's case, not least with an 11th-hour witness on the 11th day of the trial. >> we'd like to call jedidiah pepping. >> reporter: they dig through the dirty laundry of ashley fallis. her infidelity just six months before she died, with an old high school flame, jed pepping. >> did you reignite a relationship with her? >> yes. >> reporter: the defense, attempting to show ashley was capable of shooting herself.
when her pistol wasn't under the mattress, it was in her purse. >> were you aware of ashley fallis carrying a loaded gun in her purse? >> yes. >> did ashley fallis seem comfortable with the firearm? >> yes. >> reporter: and now, tom's attorney crowbarring the state's case apart. >> we don't have to prove ashley fallis committed suicide. they have to prove that he had her gun beyond a reasonable doubt, held a gun to her head beyond a reasonable doubt, and pulled the trigger beyond a reasonable doubt. ashley fallis is a victim of suicide. and tom fallis is the victim of a false accusation. >> reporter: but the last word in the case, as nancy grace is happy to point out, always belongs to the prosecution. >> they get to attack and destroy everything the defense just said. and then the jury goes out of the room.
and the defense is like -- but they don't get to say anything back. it's an extremely powerful weapon for the state. >> reporter: deputy district attorney ben whitney tells jurors, use your common sense, life experience, go with your gut. >> your gut has got to tell you that ashley fallis, a 28-year-old mother of three, did not go in four minutes after saying good-bye to her family, to walking into her room and picking up a gun and putting it to her head and pulling the trigger. it did not happen. >> reporter: the judge gives final instructions, and before it's even time to break for lunch, the jury is out to deliberate. and before the colorado sky shows the first sign of darkness, the jury sends word, they're ready to return. we got word right as we were wrapping up our interview with nancy grace. >> they got a verdict! they have a verdict.
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rice and beans. >> the jury only deliberated three and a half hours, after weeks of testimony. that is a swift verdict. >> reporter: and sometimes that's a good sign for the prosecution. >> ladies and gentlemen, the jury has reached a verdict. >> reporter: judge thomas quammen read the jury's sudden decision to a packed courthouse. >> we the jury find tom fallis not guilty of murder in the second decree and all lesser included offenses. >> reporter: while tom fallis hugs his lead attorney, his defense team wipes away tears and mouths a thank you to the men and women of the jury as they are led out of the courtroom. >> you have to wonder whether the prosecutors felt pressured to bring the case. even the crime scene evidence was at best conflicting. most people would have been shocked if there had been a conviction. >> reporter: and in the wake of that verdict, a challenged police force has had to look itself in the mirror and ask its own questions about how they handled the case. so you thought it was a homicide?
>> i did. >> reporter: and now? >> now i believe it's a suicide. >> reporter: what changed for you? >> the forensic evidence, the forensic analysis, all the information gleaned by the investigating party. once i was filled in on all that, much later, i was very comfortable with agreeing that it's a suicide. >> reporter: now, four years after that new year's eve party ended in tragedy, tom fallis is a free man. free to return home to indiana and to his children. and ashley's death, it stands as it was, a suicide. her mother jenna and father joel find that hard to accept. what did you think when you heard that verdict? >> shock. complete shock. three hours. they had lunch, picked a foreman. i don't think they went through any of the evidence. people who know ashley know that she would never have killed herself. >> reporter: joel, three weeks ago you held up a sign that said justice for ashley. >> yes.
>> reporter: do you believe you got justice for ashley? >> no. no. i am heartbroken on that part of what i know to be the truth. ashley had a zeal for life. ashley loved life. i will always remember her as the child, the daughter i've always known and loved. >> ashley, being remembered tonight. that's our program. thanks for watching. i'm david muir, from all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, have a great weekend. good night.