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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 22, 2016 12:37am-1:07am EDT

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protective services enforces a controversial law. >> bring back my daughter! >> tonight her foster father's emotional plea. but first the "nightline 5." >> janet. cough if you can hear me. >> don't even think about it. i took mucinex dm for my phlegmy cough. >> what about mike? >> works on his cough too. >> mucinex dm relieves coughs for 12 hours. let's end this. come on and do it come on let's go
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seconds.r one in just 60 good evening. thank you for joining us. when a young mother of three
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turned up dead after a new year's eve party authorities ruled it suicide. now three years later her husband, a former sheriff's deputy, is on trial for murder. as the case unfolds there are as many questions as there are answers. >> my wife just shot herself in the head! please help me, please help me! >> reporter: a frantic 911 call on new year's eve 2012 from a husband who just hours before had been dancing with his wife. tom and ashley were welcoming in the new year at their home in evans, colorado, with family and friends. ashley's co-worker andrea more given sen captured the moment. >> my perceptions of their relationship when i shot the video was that they were happy and in love. >> are you get this will too, mattie? okay. >> reporter: but shortly after midnight -- >> three, two, one, happy new year! >> reporter: ashley was dead from a single gunshot wound to her head. at the time, five law enforcement agencies ruled it a
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suicide. >> the forensic analysis done did not support any indication that tom was in proximity of ashley when the shot was fired. >> reporter: but today, four years later, ashley's husband is on trial for her murder. after new witness statements surface in 2014. those new accounts led to a grand jury investigation which determined that tom fallas pulled the trigger. >> you do not accept the possible bety that your daughter committed suicide? >> if that was the truth, then yes. >> but you don't accept and you've never accepted that as a possiblity? >> i've never had anything indicate that it was a suicide to accept it. >> reporter: today in court powerful witnene testimony heard under oath for the first time. >> when i heard him saying, oh my god, what have i done. oh my god, what have i done. >> reporter: nick glover, the fallas' next-door neighbor, 15 at the time, said he heard through an open window tom confess to two people that he
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shot ashley. >> he proceeded to say, 80 shot my wife." >> how certain are you or are you not that the voice you're hearing is tom fallas' voice that you're seeing standing in your driveway? >> i am 100%. you can't hear something like that and forget about it. i mean, that's going to be embedded in your mind for years to come. >> reporter: those two people tom was allegedly talking to? his parents. jim and anna fallas. in testimony last week they deny he confessed to them. >> at that point in time, did tom ever make a statement to you that he shot ashley? >> not at that time, not at any time. >> reporter: tom's parents say they left the new year's eve party earlier that evening but came rushing back after getting texts and a phone call from their son saying, i need you now. in court last week, tom's mother anna said she comforted her son, who was distraught. >> and when you are running up towards the driveway with your husband, you see your son? >> yes.
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>> and he's hysterical? >> yes. >> crying? >> he's crying. >> and what he said to you is, mom, i don't understand why she would do this, i love her, i love her? >> correct. >> you hugged your son? >> yes, and we cried. >> while you're standing there with tom in the driveway, did you ever hear him say "i shot ashley"? >> never. >> reporter: ashley's mother jenna gave a different view of how tom was treating her daughter at that new year's party. >> the end of the night i think his behavior towards her was very threatening and volatile and very scary. >> reporter: according to the indictment, tom fallas became irate at the end of the new year's eve party, stormed into the master bedroom, grabbed a 9 millimeter handgun, and shot ashley. the former colorado corrections deputy told police at the time he was innocent. >> i didn't shoot my wife!
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>> reporter: but ashley's mother didn't believe him. and worked with denver tv station kdvr to take a closer look at the case. >> at that time i did not know my daughter had been shot. nobody had told me. >> i dodo you solemnly swear -- >> reporter: one of the key witnesses unearthed in the news station's investigation said she heard ashley fallas arguing the night she died. she called kathy glover, the mom of that fallas neighbor nick, to ask if she called the police. >> my first response was, what? no. and she said, please tell me you called the police. i said, no, i didn't, why? and she said, because your neighbor just shot his wife. and i said, what? and she said, i could hear her screaming "get off me, get off me." >> reporter: today the woman who told her that, chelsea arego, seemed to take it all back. >> did you recall telling kathy glover in a phone conversation
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her screaming "get off me, get off me"? >> i do not. >> reporter: still, ashley fallas' family maintains that law enforcement purposely omitted information from their reports on her death in order to protect tom fallas, one of their own. >> -- accuse the evans police department of covering up the murder of ashley fallas? >> yes. yes. they never pursued her death as a homicide. >> reporter: evans police have publicly denied any wrongdoing and say there was never a cover-up. >> specifically the allegations say the officer omitted material statements from witnesses and that he changed at least one statement of a key witness in the case to support a conclusion of suicide. >> reporter: they maintain this case was thoroughly investigated in 2012. >> no person is handled with any kind of preferential treatment regardless of their position in the community or anywhere else when we're conducting a investigation. >> the victim's family typically aligns with the police who are helping to make a case.
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here you have the victim's family essentially saying the original police department who is investigating this wasn't investigating it properly, because maybe he was a fellow law enforcement official. >> reporter: two of tom and ashley's three young children may have witnessed something. one of them drew this picture while she was being interviewed by the police. and reportedly said in questioning at the time that she heard an argument. >> the fact that one of their daughters is saying that dad seemed mad becomes very important here and fits in with the prosecution's theory of the case, that he was enraged, and that he killed her. >> reporter: the kids said they did not see their father shoot their mother. >> this is not an easy case for prosecutors. people like to think that eyewitness testimony is the best kind of evidence you can have in a case. when in reality, the best kind of evidence you can have is dna. >> reporter: regardless of the outcome, ashley's mother jenna has a pending civil suit against several law enforcement agencies that were responsible for her daughter's investigation.
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ashley's friend andrea says she's still not sure what happened on new year's eve four years ago. >> so sweet. >> i don't think she would have shot herself, but i'm not going to judge tom if he says he didn't. next, a controversial custody battle spurring two communities to take a stand. while one family fights to keep a foster daughter they've grown to love. but first the sexist tennis slam that has superstar serena williams firing back. >> if i was a lady player i'd go down every, every night on my knees and thank god that a roger federer and a rafe nadal were born because they've carried this sport. >> raymond moore, former tennis star and director of the open. igniting a firestorm when asked about the state of women's tennis.
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back i want way. our knees at any point. >> reporter: the backlash tournament someone should have t him that at last year's u.s. open the women's final sold out before the men's.so i'm gonna take this opportunity to direct. thank you, we'll call you. evening, film noir, smoke, atmosphere... bob...
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tonight, a california family was left reeling when their 6-year-old foster daughter was removed from their home. all due to the enforcement of a controversial law that says because of her native american blood, she must be placed with relatives who happen to live hundreds of miles away. >> reporter: tonight a family devastated after a dramatic custody battle comes to a head. 6-year-old lexie, her image blurred to protect her identity, in the arms of her foster father. >> love you, lexie, we're fighting for you! >> reporter: as she has been for four long years. but now he is forced to hand her over to child protective
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>> we love you, lexie! we love you! >> about want you! >> rusty paige then breaking down in tears. >> i'm lexie's superman. and superman -- bring back my daughter. do not let the world go unnoticed of this. please. please. this is not right for anyone. this is not right for lexie more than anyone. >> reporter: this santa clarita community rallying around the family, their hearts also broken. >> how long are you going to stay here? >> as long as we can. >> as long as you can? >> yeah. >> reporter: emotions have been running high here for days. >> keep fighting for her. keep fighting for what's right in all this. and know that we're thankful. >> reporter: lexie had been in two foster homes before she came to summer and rusty paige. they've been her foster parents since she was 2 years old. they say she knows them as mom
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and dad. >> she's going to wonder why mommy and daddy didn't fight for her, why she's not at home. she's going to question our love. she's going to question if she can trust any adult ever again. >> reporter: according to court documents lexie had been removed from the custody of her birth mother when she was 17 months old because of substance abuse problems and her birth father who has a criminal history. but last friday, a court ruled lexie should be taken to live with her extended family in utah where an attorney representing the little girl tells abc news, we are relieved that our client will finally be reunited with her siblings and her extended family. >> it's also the federal law, so we have to comply. >> we've had people ask us why we're going to the media. and why we're dragging lexie through this. but at the end of the day it's about lexie. and she's got to know if they take her, in five, ten years, she's got to know we fought for her. >> reporter: the legal fight began four years ago after relatives of the girl's
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american, petitioned his indian tribe and the l.a. department of children and family for custody, challenging the paiges' temporary custody by invoking a law meant to protect the rights of indian families. >> the intent behind the icwa is to make sure that native american children are kept not only within the family but within the tribe and within the culture. >> reporter: lexie is just 1/64 choctaw indian but is enough to meet the legal definition of an indian child. but this law is not without controversy. in 2013 the supreme court heard the complex custody case of little veronica. that confusing legal battle beginning when veronica's birth mother put her baby up for adoption. >> we were praying for a child to love and raise when christie came into our lives. and selected us to be the parents to her daughter. >> reporter: matthew and melanie raised veronica for first two
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child's father, dustin brown, a member of the cherokee nation, learned she had been adopted, he sued for custody. south carolina supreme court initially gave the child to brown. citing that same federal law designed to keep native american families together. >> we tucked veronica into bed from the time she was 2 days old. right up until they took her away from us. >> reporter: they fought back, taking their case to the u.s. supreme court, which reversed the state court, ruling that brown had relinquished his parental rights, which cleared the way for veronica to stay with her adoptive parents. the same law is being applied here in lexie's case. but there are some significant differences. although the paiges say they want to adopt lexie, right now, they are foster parents and they do not have permanent parental rights. >> foster family is always supposed to be a temporary family. a temporary placement.
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and so oftentimes, more often than not, you want to place a child with a family member. even if that family member is an extended family. >> reporter: according to court documents, lexie's extended family has been a part of her life for a number of years. visiting frequently. and has intended to get her back. >> california law requires us to place that child, if at all possible, with a relative. whether it's a native american individual or not. >> reporter: in a statement, the choctaw nation said it wants what's best for lexie. the tribe's values of faith, family and culture are what make our tribal identity so important to us. >> you're going to fight for her to the end? >> till i die. >> this is our worst nightmare. this is this family's worst nightmare. >> reporter: the paiges and their supporters, even a former social worker on lexie's case, argues it's not lexie's blood line or background that should matter. >> it's about the child. it's about who she views and she
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personally recognizes as her parents, as her family, as her community, as her teachers and her neighbors. and that's what it's about. and they're not thinking about that at all. they haven't been. >> reporter: tonight the family angry, saying that the child they raised is being used to make a political point. >> this outrageous abuse of power must stop now. let me speak directly to the people who took our daughter. and you have her now. i'm begging every american within the sound of my voice to help us bring lexie back home. to all her supporters, you are true angels on earth. from the bottom of our hearts and from our entire family -- >> reporter: in a custody case with so much at stake, the sides may disagree on the best path forward. but everyone seems to be
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lexie. and next, an abc news exclusive. david muir joins president obama for his historic visit to cuba. what the president has to say about cuban leader raul castro. let's get thesedayquil liquid gels and go.but these liquid gels are new. mucinex fast-max. it's the same difference. this one is max strength and fights mucus. mucinex fast-max.
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let's end this. finally tonight, the last time a sitting president of the united states traveled to cuba was in 1928. president obama arrived on sunday and he spoke exclusively to our david muir. >> reporter: president obama arrived with his family in havana.
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david muir was right there to talk with the commander in chief. >> you have said that you would speak candidly with president castro about the serious differences you have with the cuban government. >> what i indicated to him is we can't force changes on cuba. but what we can do and will continue to do is to stand up for the rights that we consider to be universal. >> with so many americans back home asking this, which, is what's the bottom line on tourism in cuba? >> i think it's going to be happening very soon. but we now have an agreement with cruise lines can travel from the united states directly to havana. we have now direct u.s. flights to cuba which will make it much easier to travel. >> i wanted to ask you about the political climate back home because it's back in the news again today. you're aware that donald trump has predicted riots if the republican party tries to stop him, if there's a contested convention, saying, i think you'd have riots. i'm representing many millions of people. >> well -- this is an issue that the republican party's going to
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have to work through. there's an expectation that our leaders will not trumpet violence or justify it. there's an expectation that those who run for the highest office seek to represent everyone and not just some, or appeal to an "us" versus a "them." >> our thanks to david. thank you for watching abc news. tune into "good morning america" tomorrow. and as always we're online at abcnews.com and our "nightline"
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good night, america. a rider knows perfecting a wheelie takes hard work. what goes wrong when rubber meets the road. some guys family back to the pond. but one -- >> strays away from the rest. >> why toes are more enticing than the water. >> ow!
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>> ranging hormones, the rock' em sock' em scene in the kitchen. and see the high-speed chase of the cutest suspect as ever. >> see him at 10 miles an hour. this i like to see because a guy here practicing his wheelies seems to be doing it around no one. i can't spot a single person in sight here. here's clearly using a bike that's been modified for stunting purposes. these are bars in case he does go down and minimizes the damage done to the bike. well, something does happen. >> oh, the front wheel. >> the first attempt at the wheelie seems to go okay but he wanted. he goes for it again. when the bike comes back down, it almost looks like he goes over the handlebars, maybe so

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