DALLAS (AP) – A missing person report has been filed for the mother of Ethan Couch, 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 said he believes Tonya Couch fled with her 18-year-old son and is helping him avoid capture. Anderson said they may be travelling in her black pickup truck.
Anderson said last week that Couch’s father, Fred Couch, told investigators that he hadn’t heard from his son or ex-wife in about two weeks.
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.
The U.S. Marshals Service has issued a wanted poster promising a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Ethan Couch’s whereabouts and capture.
Authorities say they’ve received hundreds of leads in their search for Couch. Anderson said Monday that the tips are useful but can be a “double-edged sword” because they can lead investigators down dead ends.
Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury after crashing his pickup truck into a disabled SUV in June 2013, killing four people. Among the injured were some of the seven minors who were in Couch’s pickup.
Because of his age – he was 16 at the time of the crash – 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. During the sentencing phase of his juvenile court trial, an expert witness called by defense attorneys 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.