News6 Investigates


Was an 18-year-old man illegally served alcohol before his death?

The accident where Justin Franco was killed last year.
Posted at 3:08 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 22:35:18-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — UPDATE (9:15 p.m.): Avalanche Food Group issued a statement after this story ran at 6 p.m. It reads: "We take this situation very seriously at Avalanche Food Group and have always committed to and trained our staff on the importance of our policies & procedures and the safety of our guests. At this time, we are in an on going investigation and will continue to work with authorities on this matter."

KRIS 6 Investigates has obtained exclusive video showing the actions of a Coastal Bend teenager only hours before his death.

You may remember last year when 18-year old Justin Franco crashed his car on a rural road in Nueces County.

Toxicology reports showed Franco legally was drunk at the time of death.

Now we're uncovering more details about the night he died and how his family is trying to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring.

An incident report from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission provides in vivid detail Justin Franco’s last hours.

Although Franco was underage, the TABC report states he was served more than 100 ounces of beer at a Corpus Christi restaurant on the night of his death.

“His brothers and sisters are taking it real hard and so are we,” said his mother, Valerie Pena. “My life is never going to be the same.”

A year later, Pena still grieves for her son, who was 18 when he died.

His mother said the Tuloso-Midway senior had big dreams.

After graduation, he planned to marry his high-school sweetheart and begin a career in law enforcement.

But those dreams ended just before midnight on March 8, 2019, when Justin died in a car crash.

Around 6 p.m., Justin and two friends arrived at the Twin Peaks Restaurant on SPID in Corpus Christi.

6 Investigates obtained exclusive video of Justin -- who, again, was only 18 -- and his friends drinking heavily at Twin Peaks.

The TABC investigation detailed how Justin was served five 22-ounce beers -- that's roughly three qts. of beer – that were consumed in 2½ hours.

The TABC report said Justin and his friends left Twin Peaks at 8:30 p.m.

But that's where things get murky.

Where was Justin, and what was he doing for the next three hours prior to the crash?

“Our investigation shows that there was no further alcohol consumption as best we can tell,” says attorney Stephen Carrigan, who is representing Justin’s mom, Valeria Pena.

That's to be determined in court, but what we do know is Justin was driving drunk on a rural road just before crashing his car into this concrete drainage ditch.

The autopsy report shows a blood alcohol level of .13. The legal limit of being intoxicated is .08.

Police body-cam video obtained by 6 Investigates shows the wreckage up close.

Justin's body was thrown from the car and landed in a nearby field.

Four of his friends in the car were injured.

Valerie Pena filed a million-dollar civil lawsuit against Twin Peaks and two waitresses who served her son beer at Twin Peaks on that fateful night.

Her attorney argues it's not the minor's responsibility to enforce the drinking age.

That burden falls on the restaurant and its servers.

“It appears clear they did not ask him for an ID," Carrigan said. "It appears clear they perhaps knew him and clearly knew he was underage and should not have been served."

After completing its investigation, the TABC cited Twin Peaks for serving alcoholic beverages to a minor.

The restaurant was ordered to pay a $4,800 fine.

We reached out to Twin Peaks Restaurants for their response to the TABC report and civil suit.

They responded with a statement which reads:

"Twin Peaks takes responsible alcohol service very seriously. The Twin Peaks location in Corpus Christi is an independently owned and operated franchise location, thus it would be inappropriate for us to comment.”

6 Investigates also contacted the local franchisee, Avalanche Food Group, based in Sugar Land and owned by brothers John, Joe and Ricky Rosa.

After initially agreeing to help facilitate an interview with one of the owners of that company, their public relations representative stopped communicating with KRIS 6 Investigates.

Today, a mile of road near Tuloso-Midway High School has been named in Justin’s honor.

Family, friends and Justin’s girlfriend gather once a month to pick up trash and remember the young man who loved to fish and looked forward to making it big.

Through tears, Valerie Pena remembers her son.

“He was one of those wanted to know what you did for a living, how you got there, what he needed to do to get there,” she said. “He had a big heart. He had a very big heart.”

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