US Marshals Release Wanted Poster and Reward for Ethan Couch, Then Receive Hundreds of Leads

December 21, 2015 Updated: December 21, 2015
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DALLAS—The latest on the disappearance of Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager who killed four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck and whose lawyer invoked an “affluenza” argument that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

Authorities say they’ve received hundreds of leads in their search for a Texas teen who disappeared after video surfaced showing he may have violated his probation from a deadly drunken car crash.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Monday that the tips about 18-year-old Ethan Couch’s disappearance are useful but can be a “double-edged sword” because they can lead investigators down dead ends.

Anderson says he thinks Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, is helping him avoid capture and that they may be travelling in her black pickup truck.

Ethan Couch killed four people in the drunken 2013 crash but was sentenced to only probation after his lawyer argued that he suffered from “affluenza” and blamed his irresponsible lifestyle on being coddled too much by his wealthy parents.

 

MESSAGE FROM SHERIFF DEE ANDERSON:The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Marshals are searching for…

Posted by Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, December 21, 2015

10 a.m.

A missing person report has been filed for the mother of the Texas teenager who appears to have fled after apparently violating his probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck.

Tarrant County district attorney’s office spokesman Sam Jordan said Monday that a relative of Tonya Couch filed the missing person report over the weekend.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson says Tonya Couch fled with her son, 18-year-old Ethan Couch.

Investigators want to speak with the teen after a video was posted online of a party he appears to have attended. If it is determined that he was drinking, the probation violation could send him to prison for up to 10 years.

Authorities have issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to Ethan Couch’s apprehension.

This undated wanted poster photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking a defense that he suffered from "affluenza." (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
This undated wanted poster photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking a defense that he suffered from “affluenza.” (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)

 

Q & A About the Case

DO AUTHORITIES KNOW WHERE COUCH MAY BE?

Officials say they don’t know his whereabouts and have expressed concern that he may have left the country, although Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, says there’s no specific indication that he has crossed the border.

“He and his mother have the means to be able to travel to wherever they may want to travel,” Jordan said.

Couch was supposed to be accompanied by a parent for a regular visit Dec. 10 with his probation officer. When he didn’t show, authorities issued an order for his arrest the next day.

The U.S. Marshals Service has issued a wanted poster promising a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Couch’s whereabouts and capture.

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WHY WOULD HE HAVE FLED?

Tarrant County investigators were looking for Couch to ask him about a video posted online a few weeks ago showing people at a party playing drinking games. One of them appears to be Couch, and if found to be drinking, his parole could be revoked and a 10-year prison sentence could be imposed. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Friday that he believes Couch fled in the days after the video came to light. He saidCouch and his mother may have left the area in late November, shortly after Couchattended a mandatory meeting with his probation officer and well before their next scheduled meeting on Dec. 10.

 

Thank you to everyone who is concerned about helping us enforce the Directive to Apprehend Ethan Couch. Our TCSO…

Posted by Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, December 18, 2015

WHY WASN’T COUCH ALREADY IN PRISON FOR KILLING FOUR PEOPLE?

In June 2013 at age 16, Couch was driving drunk and speeding on a dark two-lane road south of Fort Worth when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side, killing four people. Among the injured were some of the seven minors who were in Couch’spickup. Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Because of his age, he wasn’t certified as an adult for trial and a judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years’ probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center.

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WHAT IS ‘AFFLUENZA’?

During the sentencing phase of his juvenile court trial, Couch’s attorneys relied on a defense expert who argued that Couch’s wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition the expert termed affluenza. The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread criticism and ridicule.

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IS COUCH’S MOTHER FACING CHARGES?

Terry Grisham, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, said investigators haven’t confirmed whether Tonya Couch fled with her son and he declined to say whether she’s facing any charges.

“We are only assuming that they’re together,” Grisham said. “They’re both missing. But no one has placed them together outside of Tarrant County.”