tv 2020 ABC January 1, 2016 10:01pm-11:00pm EST
if you think you see this person, we need you to call authorities. >> the search is under way for a wealthy teenager -- >> who sparked national attention. >> the most-wanted teenager in the country right now. >> reporter: it's the case that captivated the nation again this week, so-called "affluenza teen" ethan couch on probation for killing four people in a drunk-driving crash dissappeared, running from the law. >> we believe that she's helping him and that she's assisting him. >> reporter: his accomplice? his own mother, caught on surveillance footage in mexico. >> they even had something almost akin to a going away party before they left town.
run and an international manhunt, the couch family fugitives finally captured. >> the mexican authorities have >> reporter: tonight, the >> so they ate right there in the back? >> reporter: mother and son nabbed off the streets of mexico, tonya couch back in the u.s. and in custody. >> reporter: while ethan fights deportation. >> this time hopefully justice will be served. >> reporter: it all started on this quiet country road that became a crime scene in no time flat. a wild ride with a drunk teenager behind the wheel. four innocent people dead. >> there's another child in the ditch. >> it was carnage. >> reporter: shattered lives, and a fancy defense for a rich kid. >> affluenza. >> reporter: the question on everybody's mind -- >> where were his parents? >> reporter: tonight, they are here with their son, answering from the hot seat in exclusive deposition tapes. >> tell us your name, please,
>> reporter: has he finally come to the end of the road? i'm elizabeth vargas. we hope you've had a wonderful new year's day. but tonight, someone that probably hasn't. the wild ride is finally over for the so-called affluenza teen, ethan couch. tonight, the details on his capture. where had he gone? did he mother play a part? and how he finally came to the end of the road. here's matt gutman. >> the texas teenager who killed four people -- headlines -- >> as the affluenza teen -- now -- >> reporter: it's been three weeks since one of texas' most infamous juvenile offenders, >> mother and son apparently on the run together. >> the manhunt for 18-year-old ethan couch is intensifying. >> reporter: jumping his probation and setting off an
u.s. marshals and fbi crossing the border to track him down. welcome to puerto vallarta, mexico, a place where american tourists come to soak up the sun and maybe a little bit of local tequila. it's also a place where ethan couch and his mother tonya came to hide. and it was right here on this rundown cobblestone street and in that shabby apartment building that their three-week run from texas authorities came to an end. but their troubles began about 2,200 miles away on a very take i-35 20 miles south of ft. worth and you arrive in burleson, texas, a land of big houses and big trucks. what kind of people live here? >> probably just a good, average, middle-class hard-working folks who get up every morning and go to work. >> reporter: it was the night before father's day and eric boyles was spending it with his wife hollie and daughter shelby. >> shelby and -- and hollie called out and said, "eric, come here." when i walked through the door, they were standing at the
>> reporter: eric's wife and daughter were looking out onto a scary sight, a young woman driving a white suv had spun out just in front of their house and was now standing by her disabled car. >> so the girls headed out the front door. >> reporter: the driver of the suv called for help while shelby and hollie waited with her. that same night, down the road from the boyles' house, lucas mcconnell's family was hosting a party organized by their youth pastor, brian jennings. >> he was one of the closest people that i had who wasn't family. i was around him all the time. >> reporter: around 11:00 p.m. with the party winding down, brian needed to return some tables and chairs to his church. lucas and a friend jump into the back of brian's white truck, and they head down the road that would take them right past the boyles' house. >> i remember we saw a car on the right-hand side of the road, and he decides to pull over. >> reporter: it was that
and shelby boyles standing on the road with the driver. >> we're trying to get out of the car, and he tells us, he is like, "no, y'all just, y'all sit tight, i'll be back in just a minute." >> reporter: with brian jennings on the scene, there are now four people by the side of the road. meanwhile, a third location, just a few houses down. there's another party in progress, but this one's not so innocent. 16-year-old ethan couch is there with seven friends. >> they're drinking, they're having a good time, and then the young woman, um, needs to go to the convenience store. >> reporter: eight teenagers load into ethan's souped-up, fire engine red pick-up. six in the cab, two in the flatbed and head out onto the road. ethan guns it, hitting nearly 70 miles an hour in seconds, his truck barrelling towards those bystanders near the boyles family mailbox. chance is bringing together a crowd of people whose lives are about to violently collide. the red pick-up truck packed
flatbed, loses control, and swerves into a ditch, sideswiping that disabled white suv, then mowing down those four bystanders, crashing into brian jennings' white truck before flipping over into a tree. eric boyles is inside when his world changes forever. >> i felt, wait, you know, we don't live in california, but you would almost think, you would almost think you just had an earthquake. i mean, the house shook. >> reporter: these photos show what remains of the ford f-350 that ethan turned into a weapon of mass destruction and brian jennings' accordioned white the bodies had been scattered hundreds of feet. at the moment of impact, lucas mcconnell was seated in the back of brian jennings' parked white truck. >> reporter: do you remember the glass breaking? >> glass breaking, and tires screeching. the car that we were in got hit, and we got shot across the road, and we nailed a tree. the back window was completely shattered. and a lot of that glass was in the back of our heads.
lucas' father kevin, part of a graduation party, pulls up on >> i see taillights up ahead, as i got a little closer, i see debris in the road and i'm thinking that's not a party. that's a wreck. the debris in the road that i saw was the chairs that we had been taking back to the church and my heart just sank. i was like, oh, my god. >> reporter: as eric boyles rushes out his front door to where he left his wife and dialing the phone. >> i was on the phone with 911. >> county 911. what is your emergency? >> there's a multi-car accident out in front of my house. >> reporter: while eric's on with 911, half a dozen other frantic calls come in. >> there's four or five kids. there's kids laying in ditches and street. >> are you with the accident right now? >> oh, lord, oh yes. there's another child in the ditch. oh, my god. >> there were already people out there in front of the house. it was just debris everywhere. a table and chairs and car parts
i walked in the road, and the first thing i did was, i found there was a -- there was a male laying in the, in the road, wasn't moving at all. >> reporter: between the four people dead in the street, and the ten injured in the vehicles, the casualty count is staggering. eric boyles was yelling for his wife hollie and daughter shelby. >> i am calling out hollie and shelby as i walk. and i kinda got halfway between the road and my fence. and that's when i found hollie. and when i found her, i mean, there was no doubt that, that she was gone. so where is shelby?" >> reporter: about 20 feet down the road, eric sees a young woman, her body thrown up against the fence. >> everything told me this should be shelby, it didn't look like shelby. and i'm sitting there trying to process, the amount of trauma the bodies went through and, and what would the impact be and, and what would that do to you. >> reporter: at the same time, on that same dark road, kevin
his friend, youth pastor brian jennings. >> on the other side of the road i see brian laying in the ditch. i ran over there. >> reporter: so, you're on the ground trying to tend to brian and suddenly hear what you think is the voice of your son from the truck. >> yes. i just heard his voice and it was just at that moment that i realized that lucas had been in that truck with brian. >> right as we got out, we realized that it wasn't just us. there was people everywhere. and then we saw brian. >> i tried to feel for a pulse, i didn't feel a pulse. and i pull out my phone, i'm calling 911. >> reporter: you can hear lucas' terrified voice in the background on that call. >> i need you to sit here, and i need you to pray. okay? >> oh, my god. >> come here. i need you to sit here and i need you guys to pray, okay? >> reporter: do you remember what you were praying for? >> brian's safety. >> about that time is when the other cars from the party started getting there. >> reporter: brian's wife shaunna arrives on this hellish scene and realizes there's been
involved. >> i really thought, okay, he got hit, but he's gonna be okay. i'm thinking god wouldn't do that to me. >> reporter: but her faith is tested by what she finds farther down the road. >> i saw him and i knew that it wasn't good because i could see that kevin was doing cpr. >> reporter: and by now shuanna's three children are also on the scene. >> i was just crying out to god. i was like, "please save my dad. i need him. you can't take him yet. i am not ready." >> the first emt or firefighters that got there, they were just so overwhelmed. >> they would just walk down the road and, is he conscious? are they conscious? are they conscious? >> tonight we're hearing the chaos in the moments after a truck full of teens -- >> slammed into three cars, killing three good samaritans. >> said a woman with a flat tire -- >> the chain reaction crash happened late saturday night. >> it's almost like watching a movie. it's like it's not happening to you. and it's just surreal and it's not, it's not real life.
>> reporter: when we come back, the 16-year-old who was behind the wheel of the red truck has left the scene. but does he really think he can just walk away? >> he was like, " yeah. just remember my name. i can get you out of all this." he kept saying that. >> reporter: stay with us. what if one piece of kale could protect you from diabetes? what if one sit-up could prevent heart disease? one. wishful thinking, right? but there is one step you can take to help prevent another serious disease. pneumococcal pneumonia. if you are 50 or older, one dose of the prevnar 13 vaccine can help protect you from pneumococcal pneumonia, an illness that can cause coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and may even put you in the hospital. even if you have already been vaccinated with another pneumonia vaccine, prevnar 13 may help provide additional protection. prevnar 13 is used in adults 50 and older to help prevent infections from 13 strains of the bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia. you should not receive prevnar 13 if you have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine
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>> reporter: out on burleson retta road, police were scanning the carnage of a crash that killed four people instantly, trying to find the person responsible for it. but as it turns out, they wouldn't be the first to do that. what condition was he in? >> he was unconscious. >> reporter: corbin clark and his mother shana, two neighbors heading to the scene, find a passed-out teenager in a ditch a quarter mile down the road. >> and i kept saying, "hey, what's your name, what's your name?" he said, "what's your name?" and he said, "hey man, i am, i am ethan, i can get you out of and i was like, i guess he thought i was involved. but he was like, "yeah. just remember my name. i can get you out of all this." he kept saying that. >> reporter: his name, ethan couch, is now one everybody remembers. somehow he not only survived the crash but managed to free himself from the mangled truck. and rather than help anyone, he walked away. >> the police came. and they said, "we need to get you into an ambulance." with the officers?
shake 'em off, saying "i don't need all this." >> once ethan couch was found the story came together pretty quickly. >> reporter: that shocking story would turn sadness into outrage. get this. ethan's a 16-year-old living the life of an adult by himself just seven doors down from eric boyles. where were his parents? well, fred and tonya couch had already moved on up to this sprawling place in ft. worth -- a 7,000-square-foot compound. take a look at that glittering metal roof, you're looking at the couch money-maker. fred's got a multi-million-dollar sheet metal business. but the story of the crash begins to be told by ethan's blood alcohol content. it comes back three times the legal limit for an adult, and that's three hours after the crash. >> understand this is three hours of time he had for his body to clear alcohol out of his system. speculation, what his blood alcohol was at the time of the
>> reporter: as ethan awakes in a hospital bed, the sun also rises over burleson retta road. it is father's day. >> and the next day, yeah, i find these packages, where my father's day cards had been filled out. and my father's day gifts were there. but they were gone. there was no -- no preparation, no time to say good-byes. >> reporter: out in front of eric's house, investigators are still sifting through the crash site. wreckage that spans almost a city block. and seven doors down, officers pay a visit to ethan's burleson house. no one's home, but a trash bin brimming with cans and bottles right outside paints a vivid picture of the last night's activities. not only was he drunk, but there were traces of thc, valium and
>> right, which according to our toxicologist, were bad enough on their own, but you combine those with alcohol, just a recipe for disaster. >> reporter: richard alpert is an assistant district attorney who came onto the case just a day after the crash. >> the first thing we started witnesses in and talking to ' >> will you please state your name. >> garrett ballard. >> starr teague. >> reporter: garrett ballard, ethan's best friend since grade school and starr teague, a former and brief love interest, were two of the teens in ethan's red truck that night. these are deposition tapes from a civil lawsuit resulting from the crash. starr says ethan, garrett and another boy started drinking around 6:00 p.m. the night of the crash. >> they -- all three of them did a shot of vanilla -- i don't, i don't know what it was. >> so they start drinking, taking some shots, and then they decide to go pick up some friends. on the way back, they decide we want to get some beer. so there's already alcohol at the house and ethan clearly has
be more fun to steal the beer. >> at the walmart, i went in. grabbed the beer. >> reporter: this is surveillance video from that walmart. sure enough, there's garrett boys. >> ethan stayed with the vehicle. and when the other five stole the case of beer, they actually ran out the exit door. >> reporter: the teens head back to ethan's empty house, and the drinking continues. not just beer but shots of the 190 proof grain alcohol called everclear. >> and then the young woman needs to go to the convenience store. but even the other ones who'd been drinking knew ethan had too much to drink and they tried to talk him out of it. and he would have none of it, just made him angry. >> reporter: with that, all eight teenagers pile into the truck with ethan couch behind the wheel. >> starr, the young woman, is telling him to slow down, and so his response is, "well, i'll
so he starts playing chicken with the car in front of him. >> i was yelling at him "get over, get over, you need to get over." and when he swerved, the back tires jerked. >> just remember seeing a loud bang, then i remember being in the air. >> the vehicle was going about 68 miles per hour. >> reporter: had ethan ever pumped the brakes? >> reporter: never touched the brakes? >> no evidence of braking was there. you know, your brain when you're, when you're that intoxicated doesn't work the way it should. >> reporter: when we come back, ethan couch may have walked away from the crash, but walking away from the consequences of it wouldn't be as easy. not with this prosecutor determined to get justice. >> i don't know if ethan's life is salvageable and quite frankly, i don't care. >> reporter: but this guy's about to give him the shock of his career. >> i think ethan couch is
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>> ethan was at a spa-like treatment center in california. >> reporter: welcome to newport academy. its promotional video shows sunset around the firepit, equine therapy and yoga are parts of the program. rehab that cost ethan's dad nearly $100,000. >> we're talking about him living in luxury even while he's being treated. >> reporter: ethan's parents, meanwhile, were trying to figure out how to keep their kid out of prison. they quickly assembled the best criminal defense team money could buy, and what a memorable defense it turned out to be. >> when did you first see ethan couch? >> it was about two hours after he got home from the hospital. >> reporter: this is dr. dick miller in another deposition video. now, he's a prominent psychologist hired as part of that powerhouse legal team. >> well, i think ethan couch is suffering from adjustment reaction to adolescence, i would say. >> reporter: what dr. miller was learning in his meetings with
>> ethan learned you should be able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. >> i think that was the message generally. >> before too long we realized that we weren't dealing with a typical juvenile. >> reporter: or typical parents. the couches definitely had plenty of coin, and for ethan that meant every day was christmas. nintendos and jet skis as a kid, later a tricked-out truck. even his own credit card. >> instead of the golden rule he was taught that we have the gold, we make the rules at the couch household. >> i said that. >> reporter: and for ethan there came to driving. which his parents let him do at just 13. by 15 he was starring in his own version of "home alone" at that frequently stayed at just down the street from the boyles family. these pictures from the website zillow show a wet bar in the den and a swimming pool out back.
around, it sure seems that alcohol often was. >> from the friends we talked to, the one thing they admitted very early on was that ethan was no stranger to alcohol. >> i think one night we went through a 30-pack just between us. >> roughly 15 beers apiece. >> probably about that. >> reporter: ethan's buddy garrett even admits to seeing him drive drunk on at least three different occasions. there was history there. >> there absolutely was history. there was history and warning after warning that this was gonna happen. >> reporter: for prosecutor alpert, enough was enough, it was time for young ethan to get a dose of reality. >> up to that point life has just told him you can get away with it. we were gonna make sure he didn't get away with this. >> reporter: and he charged ethan with four counts of intoxication manslaughter. alpert wanted the poor little rich kid to do some big boy time. >> we were hoping for and asked for 20 years. >> reporter: when ethan couch
replaced by this. brian jennings' daughter abby couldn't believe it. >> they made him look really innocent for the trial. and that's not who he was. >> reporter: but it turned out there would be no trial. ethan couch admitted guilt and the proceedings moved directly to a sentencing hearing. >> he really didn't look at anybody. he just kind of sat there. basically stared off into space. >> reporter: and now we come to the key moment in this case, while recommending treatment over incarceration dr. miller drops a curious term which goes >> he got up there and he talked for this crime was he was a child of privilege and his parents didn't say no to him. >> reporter: when you heard it, what did you think? >> i smiled. i mean, it was ridiculous. >> i looked at my mom, and she kinda gave a look. it seemed like a made-up word. >> we all agreed he had terrible
but at some point, offering up that because he was raised as a rich kid and he didn't know the difference between right and wrong as a result of affluenza, just kind of blew our mind. >> reporter: and they were in for an even bigger shock when judge jean boyd announced her ruling. ethan couch was sentenced to ten years' probation and time in a rehab facility. four dead, nine injured and not a single day behind bars. wfaa reporter jim douglass covered the case. what was the reaction? >> volcanic, mainly aimed at judge jean boyd, longtime juvenile court judge here. >> she really never even got through with her sentencing. the place kinda lit up. and the bailiffs escorted her out pretty quick. >> reporter: the media crushed to get a shot of the boy who cried affluenza. >> to me, it's not right. >> he'll be feeling the hand of
ethan out of trouble. >> reporter: ethan's lawyer had a different take. >> we applaud judge boyd for having the courage to issue this sentence that's going to give ethan couch a chance. >> reporter: now, even in a law and order state like texas, it's not uncommon for juveniles to get rehab instead of hard time. still, the affluenza defense and the judge's sentence lit the national media on fire. >> a verdict in texas sparking new outrage. >> shockingly light sentence in a deadly drunk driving case. >> too rich for jail! >> i am sickened by this judge! >> people wanted this judge's head. they just felt like there had never been consequences in this kid's life and here's one more example. no consequences. >> reporter: judge boyd wasn't the only one in the public's crosshairs. so was dr. miller, who took to cnn to defend himself. >> this kid has about an 80% chance of becoming a full functioning citizen. if he goes to the jail, he has about a 10% chance. >> i mean, he killed four
>> i wish i hadn't used that term. everyone seems to have hooked onto it. >> reporter: so many people were now asking -- did ethan couch's affluence actually buy him a slap on the wrist? maybe, and maybe not, because for one family, the case was far from over. >> not so fast. this is not the end of this. >> reporter: they were about to force the couches into the hot seat to answer tough questions under oath. >> when's the last time you recall disciplining ethan for anything? >> reporter: you're gonna want to hear this. stay with us. tv anncr: good afternoon everyone. tv anncr: it's the perfect day for a game of football. tv anncr: this team is having a fantastic season. morning rituals are special. when you share what you love... ...with who you love. kellogg's frosted flakes. they're grrreat! now...you can win a microsoft surface 3...when you buy any specially-marked kellogg's
affliction was excessive wealth, the victims' families were eager to provide a remedy. five of the families involved in that fatal crash sued the couches and their family sheet metal business. while ethan was spending eight months in a state-run rehab, the couches settled those suits without admitting any wrongdoing. >> never once has ethan, um, apologized in any shape or form. >> reporter: but one family announces they're holding out. >> i have yet to see anything good come out of it. >> reporter: the mcconnells, remember, they lived down the road from ethan's old booze-binge pad in burleson. 15-year-old lucas was injured in the crash. now they are determined to have their day in court. >> and i thought, not so fast. this is not the end of this. >> reporter: so when your parents told you that they decided to go through with an actual court case, what did you
>> reporter: a lot of people were ready to hear something they'd never heard before, the boy and his parents at the center of this story speak. >> tell us your name, please, sir. >> ethan couch. >> tonya couch. >> frederick anthony couch. >> reporter: it fell to lawyers greg coontz and todd clement to extract the peculiar family history that shaped young ethan's life. his parents seem like, you know, regular old texas parents in some ways. >> there's nothing regular about the couches. >> reporter: fred and tonya had an on-again/off-again marriage, the second for them both, the kind of fractured family life which might require extra care for an only child entering adolescence. instead, these lawyers say, the couches let ethan fast forward into adulthood. >> people don't allow their kids to drive at 13. >> reporter: but that's exactly what the couches did. >> i just kept asking 'cause i wanted to and eventually they
like the corner store by myself. >> and then that progressed to school? >> yes. >> reporter: fred couch admitted allowing ethan to drive, but both parents say they didn't know about his regular drinking. >> have you ever seen ethan drink as we sit here today? >> i don't remember ever seeing him drink. >> reporter: maybe not, but she definitely saw him drunk. just four months before the fatal crash, 15-year-old ethan was stopped by police at 1:00 a.m. relieving himself in a parking lot. >> ft. worth officer comes upon him, he's taking a pee outside of a truck, there's a half-naked 14-year-old girl passed out drunk in the car, and this 15-year-old kid is just mouthing off to this officer, using profanity, his mother shows up, starts talking to him. so she clearly knew he was out there. >> did you ask him where he got the alcohol and the vodka that was in the truck? >> no, i should have but i did not. >> why didn't you ask him where
to try to stop it from happening again? >> i don't know. >> reporter: these attorneys say ethan couch, who wasn't even old enough to drive, was violating as many five laws that night. >> five violations of the law and nothing's done by tonya. >> reporter: well, not quite nothing. tonya does admit to concocting a story with ethan to keep her husband in the dark about the more criminal details of that night.
>> i wasn't sure how he would react so i didn't tell him the whole truth. >> tonya told me that ethan was peeing at the dollar general. >> what action did you take? >> ethan walked back and forth to work for a month. >> reporter: oh, really? >> do you remember any occasion where your dad punished you by making you walk to work from the >> no. i don't remember ever having to walk to work. >> reporter: ethan was required to complete an alcohol awareness
community service within 90 days. guess what? it didn't happen. >> we didn't do the community service. >> you understood, did you not, that he was likely to continue the drinking and driving if there weren't consequences? >> i should have known that, yes, i really didn't think that that would happen again. >> reporter: but her own daughter kristi, ethan's half sister, warned her that, "yes, it could." >> i just told her that i was nervous that he might be drinking being at that house by himself under no supervision. >> how long prior to the crash was that told to her by you? >> a week. >> reporter: and that same week ethan's friend starr teague says tonya witnessed ethan in the house with an open beer. >> do you know for a fact whether tonya saw y'all with beer sitting there? >> she saw us. >> tonya wanted to come in and say, "you know, i was always
driving." but then when you say what'd you do to enforce that? there was just nothing, zero. >> do you recall ever disciplining ethan for anything? >> sometimes i would take little things away from him or we would just discuss the problems. >> when's the last time you recall disciplining ethan for anything? >> i don't remember. >> reporter: of course it's hard to discipline a kid when he isn't always under the same roof. remember, the couches were letting ethan play grown-up by himself in the burleson house. >> in your mind, it was okay to let a 16-year-old kid stay at the burleson-retta house by himself without anyone present, correct? >> that 16-year-old kid, however foolish that it may have been, he seemed pretty responsible. >> was there always alcohol then when you were at the burleson location? >> not always, no.
>> most of the time, yes. >> if there was alcohol most of the time, there was drugs as well? >> yes. >> reporter: you betcha. ethan rattles off a list of drugs shocking for anyone, much less a 16 year-old. >> i've taken valium, hydrocodone, marijuana, cocaine, xanax -- and i think i tried ecstasy once. pretty sure that was it. >> reporter: which brings us back to that deadly june night. >> and what was your plan? >> i was gonna have a couple people over and drink. >> do you recall any sort of text exchange with your mom the night of this crash? >> yes, she had just sent me a text, don't be out late and don't drink and -- don't be drinking and driving. >> reporter: that was certainly thoughtful, but by now ethan had years of experience blowing off the rules without facing consequences. why should tonight be any different?
of the driveway? >> not really, i have like a -- like a picture in my head of just like turning out of the driveway but that's, that's it. >> what's the next thing you recall? >> waking up handcuffed to the hospital bed. >> reporter: and after all this, ethan's father actually distances himself from the "affluenza" defense he paid for. >> i don't even know that i believe affluenza is real. >> reporter: and despite all the terrible media coverage, even being branded "the worst parents ever," fred defends his family. >> i don't think we're profoundly dysfunctional. >> did you teach ethan that indeed because your family was wealthy that the rules didn't apply to you? >> never. >> reporter: the mcconnells are eager for a civil jury to hear every word of this testimony. >> i feel like it needed to be done.
>> because i haven't seen any punishment. >> reporter: but the couches are as determined to avoid another court room as they are to avoid our cameras. mr. couch? stay with us. we live in a pick and choose world. choose, choose, choose. but at bedtime? ...why settle for this? enter sleep number, and the lowest prices of the season. sleepiq technology tells you how well you slept and what adjustments you can make. you like the bed soft. he's more hardcore. so your sleep goes from good to great to wow! only at a sleep number store, find the lowest prices of the season. save $600 on the #1 rated i8 bed, plus no interest until january 2018. know better sleep with sleep number. what if one piece of kale
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>> reporter: it's been two and a half years since the june night when so many lives intersected on this road and the search for justice has been an exercise in frustration for everyone involved. what would justice have looked like to you? >> justice would have been the system doing something to ethan that life hadn't done to him at that point, which is hold him accountable. >> reporter: as the one remaining civil case, the one
worked its way through the courts, the judge from the criminal case decided to call it quits. jean boyd, the judge who handed down that controversial sentence retired a year ago, forgoing a run for re-election. she declined our request for comment. >> her career in the public mind will always be defined by this case. >> reporter: thousands of cases, but affluenza's the one people will remember. >> yes. >> reporter: this past september we went to texas to track ethan down ourselves, but it was no easy task. we checked out the fancy ft. worth house, but no answer there. anybody home? so we went to the family business where he had been working. we've been staking out ethan and fred's business which is right across the way for about a week now. but they're not like regular people. they don't come to work at regular hours. they don't keep regular hours so it's been really hard finding them. when that steel gate slid open
clearly wasn't looking to talk. why don't you answer some questions? but if you take a closer look, that's him, right there. the good news, he's not driving. at the time, abiding by at least that part of his probation. and just as the trial in the mcconnell case is about to fortune for ethan. change of heart, settling instead of moving forward with a trial. the last time that we met, you were very serious about taking what happened? >> i think we've succeeded. at least a little bit. >> i never saw the child drink. >> reporter: by showing the the mcconnells belive they're showing the couches for who they >> by you guys coming here and we've achieved our goals by letting the world hear about this story. >> reporter: but, as it turns out, this story was far from
in a whole new world of trouble when this undated video, appearing to show him partying near a beer pong table, surfaced on twitter. >> i found it on twitter and saved it and reposted it. >> reporter: 21 year-old hannah hardee wasn't at that party but an acquaintance of hers was and claims that gleeful blonde is indeed ethan couch. >> it just was making me mad that they weren't taking any of this seriously and after seeing the interviews with the victim's families and stuff it just really gets to me. >> i think that was the trigger that sent him running once that video surfaced. >> reporter: eight days after that video goes viral, ethan misses a regular check-in with his probation officer and he and his mother tonya, now no longer married to fred, skip town. >> we've had a very cooperative effort of all law enforcement in looking for ethan couch and now also his mother tonya couch. >> reporter: a warrant is issued for ethan's arrest and the
help, releasing pictures of tonya couch's black truck. >> we encourage the public to continue to watch for them, to look for them, to look for the vehicle. if anyone sees anything, call your local law enforcement. >> reporter: with the the international search, the pressure on mother and son couch begins to mount. looking for him and the longer he's gone, the worse it's gonna be. country seems to be asking where in the world are ethan and tonya couch? >> the hunt for ethan couch
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once again, matt gutman and "20/20." >> reporter: this is the scene most people imagine when they think of puerto vallarta, mexico. but it was here, in this gritty $80 a month apartment building where ethan and tonya couch's mexican vacation came to an abrupt end. a neighbor snapping this photo of ethan, cuffed and being led out by authorities. his black hair and goatee so different from the blonde kid who ambled into court just two years ago. ethan and tonya had been on the run for three weeks, absconding to mexico in tonya's black truck. >> they probably drove that to the border and crossed over the border. >> reporter: and get this, according to sheriff anderson before taking off they took some time for good-byes. >> they even had something that was almost akin to a going away party before they left town. >> reporter: while on the run in puerto vallarta, eating at a
back? and here's tonya on surveillance video in a tank top chatting up a butcher at a nearby store. two days later, there's ethan in that same shop, breezily talking to a worker while buying chicken nuggets, leaving with that wave. just two hours later, ethan and his mom would be detained. their downfall? authorities say a call for domino's pizza delivery. instead of a piping hot pie though, it was mexican officers who showed up. tonya couch has been shipped back to the u.s. prosecutors have set her bond at $1 million, charging her with hindering the apprehension of a felon. >> that is a third degree felony in texas and carries a sentence of two to ten years in a penitentiary. i think she deserves to be incarcerated. >> reporter: yesterday, tonya couch's attorney released a statement saying in part, "while the public may not like what she did, tonya did not violate any law."
mexico fighting deportation. when he finally does return to the u.s., authorities say, the 18-year-old may get off easy again. >> the maximum sentence he could receive is incarceration in a juvenile facility until he turns 19, which is april 11th, 2016. that is not enough. >> reporter: prosecutors have a hearing this month asking a judge to move his case to adult court, but he would have to violate his probation again, as an adult, to finally face a harsher punishment. >> reporter: he could be looking at ten years on each death, which is a potential of 40. >> reporter: meanwhile, eric boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in ethan's drunken crash, is still in that same house. a lot of people would ask why stay here? >> people may not understand this, but there's probably a little bit of peace knowing where they were.
the only thing that gets you through it. >> reporter: as for shaunna jennings, the widow of youth pastor brian jennings, her faith points her towards forgiveness. forgive. i can't live my life bitter or angry. >> that's our program for on the. but keep the conversation going on facebook and twitter. let us know what you think. use #abc2020. i'm elizabeth vargas. for david and all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, have a