Ethan Couch is no longer on the lam. The rich Texas teen who killed four people during a drunk driving accident and got away with only 10 years probation thanks to an “affluenza” defense has been caught in a ritzy Mexican resort town with his mom.
Couch will soon be headed back to the U.S., where Texas authorities are eager to charge him as an adult and lock him away in an adult prison.
Ethan, 18, and his mother, Tonya, 48, were captured by Mexican authorities Monday night in Puerto Vallarta. So far, officials aren’t really saying much about how they found the infamous pair. Both are still in Mexico.
In a press conference Tuesday, streamed online through local news outlets, including Fox4News, officials referred to details about the Couch’s flight that seem to indicate their escape was premeditated.
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Just before he disappeared, but apparently after the events depicted in a video that appeared to show Couch violating his probation by drinking at a party, Ethan had “something akin” to a going away party.
During the press conference, an official indicated that this detail was revealed during interviews and, to them, proved that Ethan’s flight was pre-planned and well-timed. They don’t know who attended this party or exactly when or where it was held.
Authorities also believe Ethan and Tonya — who they long-believed helped her son escape — took off in a pickup truck and drove it all the way to the Mexican resort town. And there’s something about Puerto Vallarta at Christmastime that may have helped their escape: The town is filled with American tourists that time of year. Ethan Couch and his mother were able, therefore, to blend right in without attracting attention.
Moreover, in a picture snapped after his arrest, Ethan is seen sporting black hair, instead of his recognizable blond.
So far, all that is known about their capture is that it occurred at the crossing of two streets near a boardwalk, Reuters added. And a source told CNN that Ethan’s cell phone use may have helped U.S. officials track him down. The U.S. Marshals Service reportedly used electronic surveillance to find him and, when they did, alerted the local police. Mexican officials had been working with the Marshals since Saturday.
By Monday night, the jig was up, and police handed Couch and his mother over to immigration authorities under the belief that they had entered Mexico without the proper permission. They had been staying in a hotel in the area.
Both are facing deportation back to the U.S., however, there’s no indication when that long-awaited return will occur.
Neither Couch will be warmly welcomed back to the U.S. Local law enforcement will attempt to charge Ethan as an adult; he was sentenced when he was only 16 but is now 18.
According to the Washington Post, in Texas, if someone is convicted of a crime when they are under 17, the case stays in juvenile court until their 19th birthday. For Couch, that milestone comes next year. During the press conference, an official acknowledged that when he returns to the States, Couch will be detained in a juvenile facility and appear before a juvenile judge.
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Ethan was sentenced to 10 years of drug and alcohol-free probation when he was 16, and the now-infamous video appears to show the young man violating that probation. For that crime, he could spend 10 years in jail. However, an official said during the press conference that the most he could serve, as a juvenile, is four months.
Their goal, therefore, is to transfer the case to adult court. If that attempt is successful, prosecutors won’t be strapped by the court’s requirement to consider the best interest of the child. Local authorities want Ethan to serve time in adult prison.
Couch was sentenced to probation for intoxication manslaughter in connection with the 2013 deaths of four people — a stranded motorist and three people who stopped to help — he struck with his vehicle while speeding and impaired by a BAC three times the legal limit. Ethan’s defense attorney argued that the teen didn’t know the difference between right and wrong because of his privileged upbringing, a condition he coined as “affluenza.”
[Photo by Uncredited Photographer/Associated Press]