Wisconsin News

48 Hours episode on Koula murders: What was new, what was left out

LA CROSSE, Wis. - It's a local story that's now become a national talking point.

On Saturday night, 48 Hours aired an hour-long episode on Eric Koula called "Desperate Measures."

Koula was found guilty last summer of murdering his parents in their Barre Mills home in 2010 and forging a $50,000 check in his father's name the day after they were killed.

He is still maintaining his innocence.

"'I didn't do it, I didn't do it,' just reverberates in your head," said Koula on 48 Hours.

The episode brought us a first look at some of the Koula family's home videos from before the tragedy. Christmas and Easter celebrations show a happier time.

Video from the crime scene in the 48 Hours episode also provided a first look inside Dennis and Merna Koula's home the day their bodies were discovered.

The show also featured the first interview with Eric Koula.

"I swear on their honor that I did not kill my mom and dad," he said.

But there are a few things the show left out.


Koula's alibi was that he was at a Shopko looking at plants around the time his parents were killed, but he isn't on the surveillance video.

What the show didn't mention was those surveillance cameras pan back and forth, and in trial the defense argued Koula might have been there without being caught on tape.

"You never attempted to see if a person could drive up during that time period, where the camera has panned to the south, without being seen, look at the flowers briefly and leave, correct?" asked defense attorney Keith Belzer in June 2012.

"No, we haven't," said John Christopherson, the main investigator in the case.

The show spent a lot of time on the note reading "fixed you" Koula now admits he planted in his own mailbox shortly after his parents were murdered.

They even show the dash cam video of him pretending to be upset when law enforcement arrived, stumbling and wiping away tears.

"It says fixed you on it," Koula can be heard saying to law enforcement.

But the show didn't mention how crucial that fake display of emotion was in the trial.

The prosecution argued it proved he could pretend to be upset when he wasn't.

"You pretended to be crying?" said prosecutor Gary Freyberg.

"I was upset, yes," said Koula.

"You pretended to be crying?" repeated Freyberg.

The defense argued the Koulas were killed by a hit man who meant to kill someone else, but got the address wrong and killed the Koulas by mistake.

Neighbor Steve Burgess had been getting death threats.

The show points out if you search Burgess' address on Google Earth, it takes you to the center of the road, where the Koula's house is located.

What the show didn't tell you is that evidence never made it to trial.

The judge threw it out as speculation, so the jury didn't know about it when they found Koula guilty.

Koula's attorneys are working on putting an appeal together.

For now, he's serving two consecutive life sentences without parole.

A cable show on the Koula trial also aired last month on the Investigation Discovery channel, with actors playing Koula and his family.

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