Jennings widow talks forgiveness and prayer

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Ethan Couch, the teenager that claimed he suffered from affluenza, is supposed to be released from rehab very soon. He’ll be out free, but on 10 years of probation for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed four people.

For nearly a year and a half, Shaunna Jennings has stayed silent about her husband’s death. But knowing that Couch could soon be free, she felt compelled to tell him exactly how she feels.

She sat down exclusively with CBS 11’s Mireya Villarreal, sharing with her videos and pictures of her life with Brian Jennings.

Married for 20 years, the pair had two children and a life based on faith, love and laughter. Shaunna shared these pictures and videos with us, hoping to help people understand what a wonderful man Brian was. He was a Pastor, father, husband and friend.

Shauna has to focus on the fun times in those videos and pictures, because the moment she doesn’t is the moment memories of June 16, 2013 creep back in.

“Well, we were having our son’s graduation party,” Shaunna remembers. “I saw brake lights and I saw my daughter’s car pulled over.”

Shaunna can still remember the moment she drove up to the accident off Burleson Retta Road. It was dark and she could see her daughter walking on the side of the road with another young girl. Not long after getting out of her car, she found her sons.

“Could you see the cars?” reporter Mireya Villarreal asked her.

“I didn’t notice the cars. I saw Evan and I saw Kevin McConnell, who was with Brian,” she answered. “He walks up to me and says, ‘I’ve already called 911. Help’s on its way.'”

Shaunna was feet away from her husband the night he died on Burleson Retta Road. She watched as paramedics worked on other victims who could be saved. At the end of the night, she had to break the news to her children.

“My kids were hopeful. And I was too. ‘Cause I couldn’t understand how, at the time, how God could allow that to happen,” Jennings said.

But June 16 was only the beginning. The Jennings family was in court when Judge Jean Boyd decided not to send Ethan Couch to jail, instead giving him 10 years of probation and rehab.

“My hope and prayer is that she’s right and that Ethan can be rehabilitated,” Jennings told us. “And my concern or fear is that if he isn’t, that he could hurt more people this way.”

And who could forget Couch’s defense — affluenza? It’s a term few had heard of until Couch was accused of driving drunk, killing four people, then blaming his privileged upbringing.

When asked about the defense, Shaunna Jennings took a long pause, then answered frankly, “It seems like something made up to get somebody out of trouble.”

Shaunna Jennings and her family live in the same city as Ethan Couch and she knows she’ll see him again one day. For anyone who’s lost the love of their life, you’d expect a reaction filled with anger, frustration or outrage. But Shaunna says that’s not what Brian would have wanted.

“It almost seems like there’s a hint of forgiveness in your voice,” Villarreal noted during the interview.

“Who am I to not forgive Ethan,” Jennings said as she fought back tears. “And my prayer, and I know it’s my pastor’s prayer as well, is that someday Ethan can come to us and say that he met the Jesus that Brian loved.”

On the day Ethan is released, Shaunna will spend a few minutes praying for him.

But most of the day will be spent thinking about her husband, Brian Jennings, a man who loved to laugh and lived for his family and faith.

Six families involved in the accident have settled out of court. But the Couch family is still fighting one last lawsuit involving 14-year-old Luke McConnell.

Depositions for that will start in a few weeks.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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