Ethan Couch, 18, is shown in this handout photo provided by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department in Fort Worth, Texas, December 17, 2015. (Reuters)
Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager from a wealthy family sought by U.S. authorities after he disappeared earlier this month, has been detained at the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta, a Tarrant County official told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Couch was sentenced to a drug-and-alcohol-free probation after killing four people while drunk driving two years ago after a psychologist and his lawyers argued in his defense that the then 16-year-old’s reckless behavior was a result of “affluenza.” But after a video emerged early this month that seemed to show Couch playing beer pong in apparent violation of the terms of his probation, the teenager vanished. His mother has also been listed as missing, and authorities feared that they fled 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.
On Monday evening, Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Sam Jordan told the Star-Telegram that Couch and his mother Tonya had been detained in Mexico and are in the custody of Mexican officials.
[Amid manhunt, ‘affluenza teen’s mom listed as missing person]
Citing its own official sources, CNN also reported that Couch was found in Puerto Vallarta, a city of beaches and lavish resorts on Mexico’s Pacific coast. He is expected to be turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which has been searching for Couch for the past two weeks.
Adam Lenert, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City told The Washington Post that the embassy is aware of the reports of the arrest and is ready to provide consular assistance, but he could not provide any more details.
Couch is wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service for allegedly violating his probation. He failed to turn up for a routine probation meeting on Dec. 10, according to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, and when an officer went to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest the following day.
According to the Star-Telegram, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department’s fugitive unit has been searching for Couch since Dec. 16.
The search for Couch reignited discussion of his light sentence two years ago. In December 2013, the Texas teen pleaded guilty in juvenile court to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated. He had valium and a high level of alcohol in his blood and was speeding down a road on the outskirts of Fort Worth when he careened into a group of people fixing a broken-down car.
Though prosecutors pushed for a 20-year prison term, Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation and no jail time. During the trial, psychologist G. Dick Miller attributed Couch’s reckless behavior to “affluenza,” saying that Couch had an unhealthy relationship with his millionaire parents, who didn’t teach him that dangerous actions have consequences.
“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,” Miller testified in court, according to ABC News.
But during a hearing in February 2014, Boyd told families involved that her decision had nothing to do with the “affluenza” argument, according to the Star-Telegram. She said that Couch, not his parents, was responsible for what happened.
Jordan, the spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, previously told The Washington Post that the office had filed a motion in November to have Couch’s case moved from juvenile court to adult court when he turns 19. Under Texas law, when someone under 17 is convicted of a crime, the case remains in juvenile court until his 19th birthday; then the sentence can be dropped. Couch turns 19 next year.
Couch can be incarcerated for 10 years for violating his probation.
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