‘Affluenza’ teen fugitive undone by pizza call

December 31, 2015 3:58 pm


and Tonya Couch went missing after video allegedly showed 18-year-old
violating probation for drunk-driving accident that killed four people.
photos / AP

A teen fugitive from Texas known for using an “affluenza” defence has
been granted a three-day delay in deportation, the same day he and his
mother were scheduled to be sent back to the US, according to a Mexican
An official with Mexico’s Migration Institute told The
Associated Press that 18-year-old Ethan Couch won a three-day court
injunction. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or
she wasn’t authorised to be quoted by name.
It wasn’t immediately
clear if Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, would also be granted a delay.
Both had been scheduled to fly back to Houston on Wednesday evening
after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in
the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. They were being held at
immigration offices in Guadalajara.

Couch’s attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.
US Marshals Service agent tipped local authorities off on Monday to the
location of Couch – who was on juvenile probation after killing four
people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck – and his mother, according to a
police report issued by the Jalisco state prosecutors’ office. Couch
disappeared as authorities investigated whether he had violated the
terms of his probation.
Mexican police say the fugitive
“affluenza” teenager and his mother spent three days in a rented condo
at a resort development in Puerto Vallarta before finding an apartment
in a less glitzy area where they were found by police.
During the
sentencing phase of Couch’s trial in Texas, a defence expert argued
that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility – a
condition the expert termed “affluenza”. The condition is not
recognised as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric
Association, and its invocation drew ridicule.
According to the
police report, one of the Couches’ telephones had been used to order
delivery from Domino’s Pizza to a condominium complex in Puerto
Vallarta’s old town, far from the glitzy resorts of the city’s newer
Agents from the prosecutors’ office went to the complex,
where a tourism operator told them that the people who had occupied the
condo were asked to vacate because the owners were coming to stay, the
report said. The Couches then moved to an apartment, and the agents set
up a surveillance operation in the surrounding streets.
On Monday
evening, detectives approached two people on a street matching the
Couches’ description. The police report said they showed an “evasive
attitude”, gave inconsistent stories about their names and failed to
provide proof of their legal migratory status in Mexico.
“They were confusing about their names and mentioned they had no identification and no immigration documents,” the report said.
They were taken into custody and handed over to immigration officials.
County Sheriff Dee Anderson said on Tuesday that the Couches had
prepared to be gone a while, even dyeing Ethan Couch’s blond hair black.
had planned to disappear. They even had something that was almost akin
to a going-away party before leaving town,” Anderson said. He would not
give details about the event, including how many people attended.
said Couch and his mother apparently crossed the border in her pickup
and drove to Puerto Vallarta. It was not clear whether they had any
No immediate charges were planned for others who may
have known about or assisted with the flight plan, Anderson said. He
said authorities have no evidence that Couch’s father, who owns a sheet
metal factory in North Texas, was involved.
The sheriff has said
he believes the two fled in late November after a video surfaced that
appears to show Couch at a party where people were drinking. Authorities
had begun searching for the pair after Ethan Couch missed a mandatory
appointment with his probation officer on December 10.
If found
to have been drinking, Ethan Couch’s probation could be revoked and he
could face up to four months in jail. Once returned to Texas, Couch will
be held in a Tarrant County facility until a probation violation
hearing on January 19.
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen
Wilson said that at the hearing she plans to ask a judge to transfer
Ethan Couch’s case to adult court. Couch would then face up to 120 days
in an adult jail, followed by 10-year probation. If he violates
probation, he could face up to 10 years in prison per death, Wilson
If the judge declines to transfer Couch to adult court,
Wilson will ask that his probation be revoked, in which case he could be
held in a juvenile facility until his sentence expires when he turns 19
next April.
Anderson said an arrest warrant was being issued for
Tonya Couch on charges of hindering an apprehension, a third-degree
felony that carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison.
was driving drunk and speeding on a road south of Fort Worth in June
2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side, killing four
people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup
He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication
manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious
bodily injury. A judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years’
probation and a stint in a rehabilitation centre.
Greg Coontz, a
Burleson, Texas, attorney representing the family of one of the victims
of the crash, said on Tuesday that his clients looked forward to seeing
the Couches face the consequences of their actions.
“I can’t think of a worse attempt to evade punishment,” he said.

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