Couple: Warning about teens drinking at Raleigh home ignored
Posted August 5, 2015 6:04 p.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2015 1:18 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Parents who said their teenage son was drinking at a Raleigh home last year expressed frustration Wednesday that the homeowners didn't heed their warning about underage drinking.
"On May 28, we went to the Matthews home, and on June 28, the tragic death of JT," Annette King told WRAL News in an exclusive interview.
Jonathan “JT” Taylor, 18, died in a crash on Hunting Ridge Road last summer shortly after leading a wedding reception at the home of Dr. Charles and Kimberly Matthews.
Prosecutors accused the Matthewses of allowing teens to drink at the party, but a jury acquitted them last Friday of aiding and abetting the consumption of alcohol by minors.
Annette and William King said they raised red flags with the Matthewses about teens drinking in their home after finding out their son, Liam, had been drinking there with the Matthewses son, Thomas. The Kings said they learned about the drinking through text messages on their son's phone, and he admitted to it after they confronted him.
Although the Kings said they don't believe the Matthewses knew about the teens' drinking, they were disturbed by the response to their concerns.
"There were no worries there," Annette King said. "They didn't seem to think there was anything to be concerned about."
She said she was furious when she learned of the fatal crash a few weeks later.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "There hasn't been a day in the past year since JT died that I haven't thought about the whole situation."
Prosecutors wanted the Kings to testify during the trial about their encounter with the Matthewses, but Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith ruled that the testimony didn't pertain to the night of the crash and would be prejudicial.
The Kings said there is a culture where adults allow teens, including other people's children, to drink at home.
"We just weren't aware of it. It was shocking to us," William King said. "When my child is at someone else's home, they may very well have another set of rules."
"It made me very thankful that we were made aware of the situation and could do something about it before possibly we were faced with a tragedy," Annette King said. "If you're going to be that parent, in my opinion, that's irresponsible."
Hart Miles, the attorney for the Matthewses, said they had no comment on the Kings' allegations, as they are involved in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Taylor's parents.
"The Matthews certainly do not condone underage drinking and never have. The Kings have sought to interject themselves into this case and also have expressed their dislike of the Matthews," Miles said in an email to WRAL News. "Obviously, they are disappointed with the jury's objective analysis and verdict."
The Kings responded by noting that police and prosecutors approached them during the investigation into Taylor's death, not the other way around.
William King said he he hopes people don't get the wrong message from the jury verdict in the trial.
"The community doesn't say this is accepted behavior," he said of allowing teens to drink in a home.
Annette King said she just hopes Taylor family can find peace.
"They're never going to get over the death of JT, but I just hope they can find a peaceful spot," she said.