Published: Sat, January 09, 2016
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Texas teen who invoked 'affluenza' defence tries to flee to Mexico

Texas teen who invoked 'affluenza' defence tries to flee to Mexico

The capture and pending punishment of "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch - who caused a drunk driving crash that killed four people in Texas two and-a-half years ago - is fraught with tough questions, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Speeding on a dark country road outside Burleson, a suburb of Fort Worth, he plowed a pickup truck into four pedestrians, killing all of them, and hit two vehicles before his truck flipped over. "They even had something that was nearly akin to a going-away party before leaving town". A judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years' probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility - a condition the expert termed "affluenza".

NBC notes that "affluenza is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an official diagnosis".

Since early this month, Ethan and his mother have been the focus of an intense manhunt after he violated the terms of his probation for a conviction on four counts of vehicular manslaughter at the age of 16.

Anderson said Couch and his mother apparently crossed the border in her pickup and drove to Puerto Vallarta, though the whereabouts of the truck are unknown. It was not clear whether they had any accomplices. The teen's father was said to be cooperating with investigators.

Leaguer Ramirez told a news conference in Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, that US authorities knew the mother and son were in nearby Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast.

According to several reports, Mexico will likely deport the Couches to Texas by plane Tuesday. Law enforcement sources confirm to ABC News that the Couches managed to elude authorities for a time by using at least one throw away phone. The agencies began coordinating the day after Christmas in an effort to find Couch and North Texas officials said it was then that they "were able to really concentrate on the area down there where they were eventually located".

The police report says they claimed to be carrying no identification and gave inconsistent stories about their names.

The Couches told immigration officials that they entered Mexico through the crossing in Tijuana.

Cars drive past a building where Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother Tonya Couch stayed at in the Pacifi ... A photo distributed by the Jalisco state prosecutor's office shows him in detention with his blond hair dyed black and his normally blondish beard now brown.

Sheriff Anderson was joined by U.S. Marshal Richard Taylor and Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson.

If his case is transferred to the adult justice system, a judge can order Ethan Couch incarcerated for the remainder of his 10-year sentence.

At a press conference held Tuesday morning Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said, "The Marshal's are working to get them back here to the states".

Anderson said an arrest warrant was being issued for Couch's mother, Tonya Couch, on charges of hindering an apprehension, a third-degree felony that carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison. If Couch remains in the juvenile system, he could ultimately spend just a few months in jail.

In such a situation, Wilson said her office would seek to have the sentences stacked, meaning Couch could be sentenced to 40 years in prison.

He said he hoped that Couch's case would now be transferred to an adult court.

Couch and his mother were turned over to Mexico's immigration authorities because police couldn't determine whether they were in the country legally, according to a statement from the Jalisco state prosecutor's office.

The owner of a local eatery said Couch went into the restaurant a couple of times and sat at a table in the back.



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