Ethan Couch, the teen recently captured in Mexico while trying to evade arrest for skipping out on a required probation meeting, grew up as a wealthy child, but with a sordid mix of dysfunctional parents and too much freedom.
Yahoo! News reports that Couch, 18, recently made headlines across the world after his capture in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The reckless teen became infamous in 2013 as the “affluenza” teen, after a psychiatrist testified on his behalf that he suffered from an affliction caused by growing up wealthy without any discipline or set boundaries. Whether he should be deemed a child of affluenza or not, Ethan Couch’s past shows that his upbringing was anything but normal.
During the deposition phase of Ethan Couch’s 2013 trial, which stemmed from a drunk driving incident in which the teen killed four people and injured several others, numerous details regarding his childhood came up, including experiencing a tumultuous divorce between his parents, Fred Couch and Tonya Couch.
In 2006, Fred and Tonya Couch divorced, and under the requirements of a psychiatrist, all three family members, including Ethan, went under psychiatric evaluation. According to Fred Couch, the marriage was a “mistake from the start,” due to incessant arguments and Tonya Couch’s addiction to the prescription pain medication, Vicodin.
Johnson County Court records indicate that Fred Couch accused his former wife of giving Ethan the medication on several different occasions. Tonya Couch also kept a then 9-year-old Ethan in her own bedroom at night, acting as her “protector,” after threatening suicide numerous times in front of the boy.
According to Tonya Couch, the marriage ended after her former husband emotionally and physically abused her, including an incident where he threw her in the fireplace. She also claimed that Fred Couch consistently called her names on a daily basis and was prone to grabbing her by the hair when angry.
When Ethan was questioned by social workers amid the divorce, he admitted that his parents “yelled at each other a lot” and put him in the middle of their arguments, almost forcing him to take sides. At only 9-years-old, Ethan had already been “adultified,” according to one social worker, meaning that the child was already expected to make adult decisions and get involved in adult business.
After the divorce, Ethan remained with his mother in a 5,000-square-foot luxurious ranch home, situated on six acres in Burleson, Texas. The home features a playhouse, workshop, swimming pool, and an open floor plan that boasts a large wet bar. Ethan also had his own motorcycle and four-wheeler.
During this time, a young Ethan told a social worker that he loved both parents and that he “wants to feel secure.” Yet, social workers stated that Tonya Couch “loved the boy so much that she couldn’t say no to him. If you’re raising young men, you’ve got to learn to say no.” This attitude would lead to tragedy as the boy grew into a teen.
While living under his mom’s roof, Ethan was left to own devices much of the time, giving him the leeway to throw outlandish parties at a young age with no accountability. During his 2013 deposition, Tonya Couch readily admitted that she couldn’t remember the last time she ever disciplined her son.
It wasn’t just his mother that allowed Ethan to live like an adult. At age 13, he began driving his own car to the Anderson Private School, a gifted and talented institution that he attended during some of his middle school years.
When the unlicensed youth was questioned, his father stepped in and threatened to buy the entire school. According the Anderson School’s co-founder, LeVonna Anderson, Fred Couch was insistent that his son should be able to drive to school.
“He told me that Ethan was the best driver he knew. He was adamant that Ethan was going to drive to school. He believed his son was better. His son was more talented. He was the golden boy.”
According to a psychologist who testified at Ethan’s trial, the actions of his parents, coupled with a dysfunctional childhood in which he was made into the decision maker of the household, created a remorseless teenager who feels he is above the law: an “affluenza” teenager.
Yet, per the American Psychiatric Association, affluenza is not a recognized medical diagnosis. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has no such word under any of its recognized mental conditions.
Regardless, Ethan eventually pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and received the light sentence of 10 years of probation and in-patient therapy treatment. Although the judge presiding over the teen’s case stated that his affluenza status had nothing to do with the sentencing, the end result, at least in the majority of the community’s eyes, is that an over-spoiled teen was once again taught that he is above the repercussions that the average person would face in the same situation.
Ethan Couch remains in Mexico, where he won a temporary stay from deportation back to the U.S.
[(AP Photo/LM Otero]