FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – The Texas teenager who killed four people in a fatal drunken-driving wreck arrived at a Texas airport following his deportation from Mexico on Thursday, more than a month after he and his mother fled the U.S. as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation.
Ethan Couch, 18, arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport late Thursday morning and could be seen walking through the airport escorted by law enforcement. Couch was apprehended with his mother in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 28, after a call for delivery pizza tipped off authorities to their whereabouts.
Authorities believe Couch and his mother fled Texas in her pickup truck after an online video appeared to show Ethan Couch at a party where people were drinking. Couch had been sentenced to 10 years’ probation in juvenile court for the 2013 drunken-driving wreck that killed four people and severely injured two others, and terms of the probation prohibit him from drinking or leaving Tarrant County, Texas.
During the trial in that case, a defense witness argued that Couch had been coddled into a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association and drew widespread derision.
Couch initially fought deportation, but his attorneys recently dropped the fight. Uniformed Mexican immigration agents put Couch on a commercial flight from Mexico City to Texas on Thursday morning.
Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, was quickly deported after she and her son were found in Mexico. She is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon. She was released on bond in early January to the home of another son, after being fitted with an electronic ankle GPS monitor.
According to an arrest warrant, Tonya Couch is accused of telling estranged husband Fred Couch before fleeing that he would never see her or their son again.
A detention warrant was issued for Ethan Couch in December after he missed a meeting with his probation officer. Investigators said that when Ethan and his mother were found in Mexico he appeared to have tried to disguise himself by dying his blond hair black and his beard brown.
Video released Thursday by the Mexican immigration institute showed Couch wearing a bluish camouflage-print hoodie, being escorted out of the detention center before dawn, and being escorted onto the plane by four agents. He had been in immigration custody for 28 days.
Couch is seen with a full, light-brown beard on the institute’s video, showing little emotion as he is placed aboard a pickup truck and driven out of the gated detention center.
Couch’s Mexican lawyer, Fernando Benitez, said Tuesday that Couch had formally ratified his decision to drop the appeal on Monday.
“I gave him several options, but he decided to go to Texas to face whatever charges he faces,” Benitez said.
Ethan Couch will be held in a juvenile detention center in Fort Worth, where a juvenile judge will hold a hearing to decide whether to continue to hold him there, book him in an adult jail or let him go, according to Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. The hearing is scheduled for Friday.
A separate hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19 to determine whether Couch’s case will be transferred to the adult system. If it is transferred and Couch violates his probation again, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each death involved in his conviction.