‘Affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch missing
Police are searching for Ethan Couch, the wealthy Texas teen who received probation in 2013 after killing four people in a drunk driving crash.
Dallas: Authorities are still searching for a troubled Texas teen who may have violated his probation after killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving accident – and they now fear he may have fled the country.
After Ethan Couch crashed his ute at more than 104 km/h into a group of people who had stopped to help a stranded motorist, he was sentenced to drug-and-alcohol-free probation and time in a rehabilitation centre.
But following the emergence this month of a video showing a teen reported to be Couch drinking at a party, authorities said they were trying to determine whether it was the 18-year-old known as the “affluenza” teen.
Authorities fear fugitive drink-driving killer Ethan Couch, 18, may have fled the United States with his mother. Photo: WFAA
They’re also trying to determine where he is and are worried he may have left the country.
“With the wealth and the wherewithal that his family has, it’s going to be a tough assignment for us to find him,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The FBI and US Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, who is now considered a fugitive.
“If we [had] a top 10 wanted list today, he’s number one,” Anderson told ABC News.
In June 2013, Couch, then 16, was driving his friends on a two-lane road in Fort Worth when he crashed into a car on the side of the road, according to the Associated Press. Authorities said his blood-alcohol level was 0.24 per cent – three times the legal limit for an adult – and that he had traces of Valium in his system at the time of the crash.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated.
At trial, psychologist testified Couch suffered from “affluenza” because his family’s wealth and a dysfunctional relationship with his parents left him without a sense of responsibility.
“Instead of the golden rule, which was ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ [Couch] was taught we have the gold, we make the rules at the Couch household,” Dr Dick Miller testified in court, according to ABC News.
Couch killed 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down, and three people who had stopped to help: youth pastor Brian Jennings, 41; and Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21.
Couch, who had been drinking at his parents’ second home in Burleson, got behind the wheel with seven people piled into his Ford pickup, authorities said.
Teens Sergio Molina and Soliman Mohmand were thrown from the bed of the truck. Molina sustained a severe brain injury and is unable to move or talk. Mohmand suffered broken bones and internal injuries.
The teen’s light sentence evoked anger across the country.
The recent emergence of the party video put Couch back in the news – and high on the local sheriff’s most-wanted list.
“It’s one of those times when you hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but I told you so,” Anderson, the Tarrant County sheriff, told the Morning News. “I knew he was going to end up in more trouble.”
The sheriff has a message for Couch, according to CNN: “You can run, but you’re always going to be looking over your shoulder. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to come after you. We’re going to find you, wherever you are.”
Teen faces time in prison
Samantha Jordan, the Tarrant County district attorney’s spokeswoman, confirmed the US Marshals Service is involved.
The FBI also has been in contact with the county sheriff’s office and is “looking at ways we can assist,” spokeswoman Allison Mahan said.
On Tuesday, the juvenile-justice equivalent of an arrest warrant was issued for Couch, who received 10 years’ probation last year in his intoxication manslaughter case.
Officials also have been unable to reach his mother, with whom Couch is supposed to be living.
Randy Turner, the director of Tarrant County Juvenile Services, confirmed that a directive to apprehend was issued for Couch earlier this week.
Once Couch is found, there’s a “variety of possibilities,” Jordan said.
“Ultimately, he will go before a juvenile judge to determine next steps, which could include up to his being detained at the Juvenile Detention Centre until his 19th birthday in April,” she said.
Judge Timothy Menikos oversees the 323rd District Court and is expected to rule on a request to move Couch’s case from juvenile court to adult court after Couch turns 19.
Officials have been investigating whether Couch is seen in a video posted to Twitter with young men who are playing beer pong. If he is in the video, officials will have to determine whether that constitutes a probation violation.
Couch cannot drive, drink alcohol or use drugs during his probation. Violating the terms of his probation could result in a jail sentence of up to 10 years, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office has said.
Former State District Judge Jean Boyd handed down the terms of Couch’s probation. He was ordered to attend a rehabilitation facility.
Boyd did not run for re-election.
The Dallas Morning News, Washington Post