DA wants jail time for teen who killed four people in DWI crash

Ethan Couch

Credit: WFAA

Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old charged with killing four people in a drunk driving accident, arrives at Juvenile Court on December 10, 2013.

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by BYRON HARRIS

WFAA

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 10:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 18 at 1:45 PM

FORT WORTH — More information has arisen in the background of 16-year-old Ethan Couch, who was given a controversial probation sentence in a drunken driving crash that killed four in June.

Investigators said Couch was driving a pickup truck between 68 and 70 miles-per-hour in a 40 mph zone. The four who died were standing on the side of the road outside their vehicle. Nine others were hurt.

A judge ordered Couch to 10 years probation and a year's worth of in-house treatment at a California rehabilitation center after his attorneys argued he was a victim of "affluenza" and his parents substituted money for discipline.

Judge Jean Boyd could have sentenced Couch to 20 years behind bars.

Tuesday, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office released a statement in which they revealed they are working to put the teen behind bars on two intoxication assault cases from the deadly June crash.

"During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault," read a statement from District Attorney Joe Shannon. "There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict. The District Attorney’s Office is asking the court to incarcerate the teen on the two intoxication assault case.

Psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller testified that Couch's parents gave him "freedoms no young person should have." He called Couch a product of "affluenza," where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.

He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example,  Miller said Couch's parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.

Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy.

Couch had access to a 4,000-square foot house on Burleson Retta Road. The home, where he often stayed alone, is listed in Tarrant County property records in his mother's name. The house is virtually unfurnished, but was available for him to party, unsupervised.

The accident took place less than a half mile from his home. Couch had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, as well as Valium.

Tammy Overton, who lives a few doors away from Couch's house, said she was surprised that a 16 year old lived alone in the large house. But, her main concern over the case still lies in the fact that Couch received probation instead of jail time. Overton is a professional truck driver who knows the punishment she would face if she was behind the wheel during a deadly drunken driving crash.

"I would lose my whole livelihood," she said. "I would have the rest of my life taken away from me because I would be in jail. But, there were four people that lost their lives in that accident. There were four people who lost their lives and they don't get their lives back."

Couch's parents had their own brushes with the law.

Dating back to 1989, Fred Couch, Ethan's father, shows up 23 times in Johnson County police records. Included in the records are charges of criminal mischief, theft by check and assault. The cases were dismissed.

Tonya Couch, divorced from Ethan's father in 2007, was charged with reckless driving in 2003.

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