By BROOKE STANGELAND AND ALEXA VALIENTE
Dec. 5, 2013
A brother and sister facing years in prison for their involvement in bank robberies with their father claim he recruited them for the crimes, and now he too will go to prison.
Hayden Catt and Abby Catt were just 20 and 18 years old respectively when they went on their first bank heist together with their 51-year-old father Scott Catt in August 2012.
"I made some really bad decisions," Scott Catt told "20/20." "I did something that--did some things I'm just not proud of."
Scott Catt accepted a plea deal today, pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and accepting a sentence of 24 years. He blames all that has happened on his drug and alcohol abuse.
"I'm just offering it up as an explanation to how I got to this point. A lot of bad choices…were made under the influence of alcohol and cocaine," Scott Catt told "20/20." "I'm paying the consequences, and I will pay…My children as well."
Weeks before their father accepted the plea deal, Hayden Catt and Abby Catt were allowed to see each other for the first time in a year.
In an unprecedented gesture, Sheriff Troy Nehls recently allowed ABC News' "20/20" to bring Hayden Catt and Abby Catt together at the Fort Bend County Courthouse in Richmond, Texas. On Nov. 14, 2013, Hayden Catt accepted a plea deal with a ten-year sentence. Abby Catt also accepted a plea deal with a five-year sentence.
"I don't blame you for anything. Nothing," Abby told Hayden during their emotional reunion.
"It's going to be a long...time until I see you," Hayden Catt responded.
With guns drawn and wearing painter uniforms, Hayden Catt and Scott Catt entered the Commerica Bank that was just under a mile from their apartment. Abby Catt waited in the car outside.
"Once we walked into the bank, then it was on. I was running on so much adrenaline and so, so amped that I wasn't even really feeling anything, really," Hayden Catt said.
According to police, Hayden Catt and his father headed straight for the bank teller and then back into the vault.
"I was actually shaking so bad that the employees grabbed the bag and started throwing money in for me, because they couldn't get the money in. I was shaking so bad," said Hayden Catt.
With their garbage bag full of $50,000 in cash, Hayden Catt and Scott Catt sprinted back to the getaway car Abby Catt was driving.
"I'll never forget the feeling, and it was just something you just...want it to be over with," Abby Catt said. "My dad would yell at me and stuff to not drive fast, and, you know, so I didn't."
On Oct. 1, 2012, the family did it again, robbing the First Community Credit Union in Katy, Texas. This time they swapped the painter uniforms for construction vests that they purchased at their local Home Depot, a decision they would later regret.
Life hadn't always been this way for the Catt siblings. While their father was dealing with the death of their mother Beth Catt, who died of breast cancer at age 32, the kids kept it together. They did well in school and for a while were both star swimmers in a town just outside of Portland, Ore. Their father was the proud president of the swim club, when he was sober.
"I was in denial about not needing help, about grieving, about depression, about my ability to raise them by myself," Scott Catt said. "I started drinking heavily."
"I was concerned, you know...when he was going out to drink. That was, you know, a big time of worry for me, not knowing what was going to happen, if he might end up in jail, or end up in a fight," Hayden Catt said.
Over the years, Scott Catt was arrested for driving under the influence, assault and disorderly conduct. However, Hayden Catt and Abby Catt never suspected that their father, who was an engineer during the day, was also moonlighting as a bank robber.
"From time to time, though, in his room, he would keep an envelope full of hundred-dollar bills," Hayden Catt recalled. "But, I never, I never really thought it that strange that he would keep a couple thousand dollars in cash."
For a fresh start, Scott Catt moved his family from Oregon to Texas to start a new life and job, but his life of crime quickly followed.
It wasn't until one night last year when Scott Catt revealed to his son where the cash stashed around the house had been coming from.
"That's when he approached me and said, 'Would you be willing to do something to get some money, more illegal than selling drugs?'" Hayden Catt said. "And I said, 'Yes.'"
Scott Catt reassured his son that he'd robbed banks many times before and always stayed ahead of the cops. However, recruiting his son to rob banks with him was not enough for this dad.
"My dad sent my brother to ask me," Abby Catt said. "I mean, it was just…in some way, I was led on, like, this is how I protect them, you know. And these are the only people I have, so...."
By their second bank heist together, the Catt family had stolen over $100,000. However, police were quickly able to identify them by the construction worker vests that Scott Catt ordered his children to buy for disguises.
"Home Depot video surveillance also shows Hayden and Abby walking in there and purchasing those vests...with a Mastercard debit card in the name of Scott Catt," Sheriff Troy Nehls told "20/20."
On Nov. 9, 2012, Hayden Catt, Abby Catt, and Scott Catt were all arrested. After accepting his plea deal, Hayden Catt will receive 371 days of credit for time served and will be eligible for parole in five years. With 371 days of credit served, Abby Catt will be eligible for parole in 18 months.
Shocked by Abby Catt's case, Sheriff Nehls said he's committed himself to helping her turn her life around. "I just feel that she's more of a victim in this," Sheriff Nehls said. "My goal and objective is...to try to educate her, get her where she can get her GED and try to teach her some type of a skills set here so when she gets out….you know, she can lead a productive life."
Abby Catt said she doesn't know if her father is sorry. "But, I believe he feels remorse, but I also believe that he still didn't have my best interests through all of this, through all the court stuff," she said.
As they serve the remainder of their sentence, Hayden Catt and Abby Catt hang onto the deep bond they share with one another.
Their love for each other is the one thing their father couldn't destroy.