tv 2020 ABC October 16, 2015 10:01pm-11:01pm EDT
this road is kind of fun to drive. >> reporter: it all started on this quiet country road. that became a crime scene in no time flat. >> oh, my god. >> oh, my god. >> reporter: a wild ride in a speeding, 8,000-pound truck with a drunk teenager behind the wheel. playing chicken with other peoples' lives. four innocent people dead. >> there's another child in the ditch. >> it was carnage. carnage and destruction. >> reporter: a perfect storm of wrong place, wrong time. >> i started screaming, where is my dad? >> reporter: shattered lives and a fancy defense that for a rich kid.
affluenza. >> this is preposterous. when a teen, with blood on his hands and money in his pockets, didn't serve jail time. >> i'm sickened by this judge. >> up to that point life has just told him you can get away with it. >> reporter: the question on everybody's mind. >> reporter: where were his parents? >> reporter: tonight, they're here with their son. for the first time on camera answering from the hot seat in exclusive deposition tapes. >> tell us your name, please sir. >> ethan couch. >> tonya_couch. >> frederick anthony couch. >> reporter: did they shower him with everything except the word "no"? a case of affluenza. it set off a national fire storm in a case settled just last week. affluenza. >> outrage not just at the
teenager, but a mother and father as well. decide for yourselves, when you hear from them under oath, for the first time ever. here's matt gutman. >> reporter: 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 hollie really called out and said, "eric, come here." when i walked through the door, they were standing at the window, to the front. >> reporter: out in front of the house a young woman driving of a white suv had spun out 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, 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 disabled car along with holly and shelby boyles standing on the road with the driver. >> we are 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. so they decide, well, we'll go get them. >> reporter: all of them?
>> all of them decide to go. >> 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 barreling toward the scene at the boyles family mailbox. chance is bringing together a crowd of people whose lives are about to violently collide. 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: when that red pick-up truck packed with eight teenagers, two in the flatbed, lost control, it swerved into a ditch, sideswiping that disabled white suv, then mowed down those four bystanders. crashing into brian jennings' white truck before flipping over
into a tree. these photos show what remains of the ford f-350 that ethan turned into a weapon of mass destruction and brian jennings' white chevy tossed across the road. 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. do you remember the sound of metal crunching, of 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. >> reporter: just seconds later, lucas' father kevin, part of a caravan coming back from that party, pulls up on the scene. >> 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: eric boyles is in his house when he feels the explosion, rushes out his front door to where he left his wife and daughter. he starts dialing the phone. >> i was on the phone with 911. >> tarrant county 911. what is your emergency? >> there's a multicar accident out in front of my house. >> reporter: while eric's on with 911, a half dozen other frantic calls come in. >> there's four or five kids. there's kids laying in ditches in the street. >> are you with the accident right now? >> oh, lord, oh yes. there's another child in the ditch. >> oh, my god. we've got one laying on the road unconscious. they say he's breathing. >> there were already people out there in front of the house. there was just debris everywhere. a table and chairs and car parts and everything else. i walked in the road, and the first thing i did was, i found there was a male laying in the road, wasn't moving at all. >> reporter: between the four people dead in the street, and
the teninjured 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. then it was a matter of "okay, so where is shelby?" >> reporter: as eric stumbles along searching for his daughter, about 20 feet down the road, he 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 am sitting there trying to process, the amount of trauma the bodies went through and, and what would the impact be. and what would that do to you? >> reporter: at the same time on that same dark road, kevin mcconnell is also searching for 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. >> sir, how many people are injured? do you know? >> one, two, three, multiple. >> multiple? >> i don't even know how many. >> my dad said, "just hold this fence right here, and just pray." >> 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. >> 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? >> 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. >> it was a normal drive. and then, all of a sudden, i saw teenagers walking down the side of the road and my first thought was, why do people let their teenagers walk down the side of the road? it's like almost midnight. >> reporter: shaunna pulls over and realizes there's been a crash and her husband was 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. >> well i saw him and i knew that it wasn't good because i could see that kevin was, um, 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? >> the scene was as bad if not worse than anything i've seen and that's 35 years of law enforcement. it was a huge crime scene spread over hundreds and hundreds of yards. >> tonight we're hearing the chaos in the moments after a truck full of teens -- >> slammed into three cars full of good samaritans said a woman with a flat tire -- >> 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. but it was. >> 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." >> reporter: stay with us. etty . when dad opens up the window, what's the first thing he does? the tobin stance. but when we open up the windows, you can see the dust floating around. there's dog hair.
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once again, matt gutman and "20/20." >> reporter: the carnage out on burleson retta road looked like a plane crash. four people killed instantly, over 100 onlookers, first responders and victims' families, like eric boyles, jamming the street. >> i have never been in the military, i have never experienced war, but i can appreciate what they go through. >> reporter: local news crews capture this footage. authorities scanning through the wreckage. they needed to find the person responsible for the crash. as it turns out, police 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 all of this." 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 in burleson 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 in an ambulance." >> reporter: was he struggling with the officers? >> he kept shaking, trying to 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. ethan was supposed to be cleaning the place up so it could be sold. 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, and this estate is complete with guard towers, a guest house and a steel gate surrounding it. 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 accident is through the roof. >> 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 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 is 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 some other drugs. >> right. which according to our toxicologist, um, 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 doing is bringing those witnesses in and talking to 'em. >> 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 never before seen 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. >> 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
money, but they decide it would 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 ballard and four other teenage boys. >> and then we walked out the fire exit. >> 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, um, 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. right away, things start breaking bad. >> pulls out of there and immediately is going so fast
that they're, starr is telling him to slow down. and so his response is, well, i'll just drive into oncoming traffic, 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 something in the road and then 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? >> no brakes. >> reporter: never touched the brakes? >> no evidence of braking was there. when you're that intoxicated doesn't work the way it should. >> at that point, i thought that ethan was dead. i freaked out and, uh, i got out of the truck, i climbed out the back and i guess i had tunnel vision, i just walked, i just took off. >> reporter: but for
ethan couch, walking away from the consequences of this accident wouldn't be as easy. not with this prosecutor determined to hold him accountable. >> i don't know if ethan's life is salvageable and quite frankly, i don't care. >> reporter: but this guys about to give him the shock of his career. >> i believe ethan couch is suffering from -- >> reporter: stay with us. some cash back cards love to overcomplicate things. like limiting where you earn bonus cash back. why put up with that? but the quicksilver card from capital one likes to keep it simple. real simple. i'm talking easy like-a- walk-in-the-park, nothing-to-worry-about, man-that-feels-good simple. quicksilver earns you unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, everywhere. it's a simple question. what's in your wallet? ♪ here's something to shout from the mountaintop. cricket's plans start at $35 a month, after $5 auto pay credit.
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we return to "20/20"'s a case of affluenza. >> reporter: more than 1,000 people gathered in burleson to remember a youth pastor killed on a tarrant county road last week. >> i'm going to live to make my daddy proud. >> reporter: the memorial for local youth pastor brian jennings drew so many mourners it had to be streamed online. while crowds were mourning in texas, ethan was in a west coast resort town.
>> ethan was at a spa-like treatment center in california. >> reporter: welcome to newport academy. its promotional video shows sunsets around the firepit, equine therapy and yoga. 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 would come to shape this
story, that throughout his young life ethan's parents showered him with everything, except responsible parenting. >> 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 had plenty of coin, and for ethan that meant every day was christmas. nintendos and jet skis as a kid, later that tricked out truck and his own credit card. >> instead of the golden rule. he was taught that we make the rules at the couch household. >> reporter: those rules included traffic laws. for ethan there weren't many. his parents happily handing over the keys of their trucks to their 13-year-old. something that, at the time, caught the attention of one of ethan's teachers. >> and what did she say? >> mrs. anderson said he's not allowed to drive to school. >> and what was fred's response?
>> something to the effect that, i'll buy the school or something along that line. impulsive. >> and when he didn't buy the school, he pulled ethan out of the school. >> yes, he did. >> reporter: after that, ethan's parents opted for home-schooling. it's not clear how much schooling he actually got, but he definitely got the home. as in the 4,000 square foot ranch house he 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. and if his parents weren't 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 everything he could including four counts of intoxication manslaughter. alpert wanted the poor little rich kid to do some serious time. >> we were hoping for and asked for 20 years. >> reporter: when ethan couch loped into court, the selfie swagger from facebook had been 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 the case. while recommending treatment over incarceration, dr. miller drops a curious term which goes off like a bomb, affluenza. >> he got up there and he talked about the fact that the reason 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 just kinda gave a look. it seemed like a made-up word. >> we all agreed he had terrible parents. 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, the place kinda lit up. and the bailiffs escorted her out pretty quick. >> i felt like the judge spit in my face. >> 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 god. >> money always seems to keep 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: the affluenza defense and judge's sentence lit the national media on fire. >> too rich for jail! >> judge jean boyd said the teen wouldn't get the therapy he needed in jail. >> i am sickened by this judge! >> people wanted this judge's head. they just felt like there have never been consequences in this kids 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 people. you can call it affluenza. >> i wish i hadn't used that term, everyone seems to have hooked onto it. >> what he didn't anticipate was that the b.s. of what his opinion was gonna be, hit the winds and he was gonna get the reaction he got, which he deserved to get. >> 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 onto 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. introducing... the biggest of five sizes on verizon's new simple plan. 18 glorious gigs for $100 a month plus $20 per phone. that's 50% more data for just $20 more. so you can do more of what you love without compromising on a... so-so network. because verizon is the only network that's number one in speed, call, data, and reliability. what's better than that? get $300 when you trade in your device and buy a new one. stop by or visit us online and get the biggest deals... on the best network... waking sleep on this! skin?
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once again, matt gutman and "20/20." >> reporter: if ethan couch's affliction was excessive wealth, the victims' families were eager to provide a remedy. five of the families involved in the fatal crash brought civil lawsuits against the couches and their family sheet metal business, while ethan was spending eight months in a state run rehab, getting well.
the couches settled those suits without admitting any wrongdoing. >> never once has ethan 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 this. >> 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 tell them? >> i was ready for that. >> 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 couch, a rags to riches millionaire, has his own history with the law. and get a load of what he allegedly said during a 1992 stop for a dui. >> did you tell the arresting officer, i make more in a day than you make in a year? >> probably. >> 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. >> you understood, if he was at any time he was under 16, he was
never to be driving by himself >> yes. >> nevertheless, you allowed that behavior to happen, correct? >> yes. >> i just kept asking because i wanted to. and eventually they started letting me drive just to 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 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 he got it, 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. >> 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? >> no. i don't remember ever having to walk to work. >> reporter: ethan was required to complete an alcohol awareness course and eight hours of 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. >> 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, i was always really against drinking and 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 grownup 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? >> most of the time, yes. >> if there was alcohol, most of the time there was drugs as well? >> yes. >> reporter: ethan rattles off a list of drugs shocking for anyone, much less a 16-year-old. >> i've taken valium, hydrocodone, marijuana, cocaine, xanax. 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 like, don't be out late and don't drink and don't be drinking and driving. >> she was asking what we were all doing and he was telling her, she was telling she knew that we were drinking, she was like, well, just don't drink and drive. >> 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? >> do you remember pulling out of the driveway? >> not really, i have like a, little like, a picture in my head of just like turning out of the driveway but that's it. >> what's the next thing you recall? >> waking up handcuffed to the, 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 wealth bought privilege? >> i don't believe i ever intentionally tried to teach him that. >> 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. >> reporter: why? >> 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. until i realized our body handles a lot. 1,100 meals a year... 730 rushed snacks... add 300 stressful decisions...
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intersected on this road. and the victims' families, like eric boyles, who lost his wife and daughter right outside his house, remain convinced that this was an accident in name only. >> this was not an accident. this was not a good kid that just made a poor decision. this event was going to occur somewhere. it was just a matter of when and who it was going to affect. >> reporter: the search for justice has been an exercise in frustration. not just for them but also for prosecutor richard alpert. 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: did you ever think of prosecuting the parents? >> we did. we, if there was a way to do it, we would have done it. being a bad parent unfortunately is not a crime. >> reporter: as the one remaining civil case, the one brought by the mcconnell
family, 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 last year. she declined our request for comment. >> she will always be defined, 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. these days ethan back working at his dad sheet metal plant. we reached out to ethan and his parents but they had no comment so we headed back to texas to track him down ourselves. it was no easy task. we checked out the fancy ft. worth house but no answer there. so we went the family business. 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
and ethan finally emerged, he clearly wasn't looking to talk. but if you take a closer look, that's him, right there. the good news, he's not driving. abiding by at least that part of his probation. and just as the trial in the mcconnell case is about to begin another stroke of good fortune ethan lucas and his parents have had a change of heart settling instead of moving forward with a trial. the last time that we met, you were very serious about taking this all the way what happened? >> i think we've succeeded. at least a little bit. >> reporter: by showing the world those deposition videos, the mcconnells belive they're showing the couches for who they really are. >> by you guys coming here and focusing attention on this, we've achieved our goals of letting the world hear about
this story. >> reporter: the couches don't want to talk. we'll probably never hear their side of the story, or hear them apologize. >> i think when you have things that you want to hide, you tend to stay in the shadows. it's time to move on. my family has been through a lot. >> reporter: these days the mcconnells are teaching lucas to drive on the same roads ethan couch tore through. and eric boyles is still in his home, even though reminders of that hideous night are just outside his front door. a lot of people would ask, why stay here? >> people have asked, how can you come back to the house? people may not understand this but there's probably a little bit of peace knowing where they were. this is where their last moments were. faith, family, and friends is the only thing that gets you through it. >> reporter: shaunna jennings, the widow of youth pastor brian jennings, believes her husband did not die in vain. his purpose, she says, could be to reach the very person who took his life.
>> maybe this is a wake-up call or that somehow brian's life can show him a different life that he could have. >> reporter: for her the time for outrage has passed and the time for forgiveness has begun. >> it's a daily decision to forgive. >> reporter: because it's so easy to hate, isn't it? >> it is. but that doesn't do anything except punish you. i can't live my life bitter or angry. mary gets her bounce on. wow mary, is like, every mom from the neighborhood here? look at them all... ...'judgie'. see? you are looking good!
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who is more responsible? ethan or his parents? let us know on facebook and twitter. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. >> and i'm david muir. have a great weekend. sons of their own that adopted three women, then changed their mind, saying they were violent. >> she told you what? >> they had demons. >> and the outrage when they give them to someone else. they said they had no choice. >> on "20/20." >> coming up on "action news" a south jersey police officer is airlifted to the hospital after a gripeding crash.