US authorities track down mother and son who fled to Mexico to escape jail time

By REUTERS
December 30, 2015 06:56
1 minute read.

 
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A rich Texas teenager who fled with his mother to Mexico to avoid possible jail time for violating his probation in a drunken-driving crash that left four people dead set up shop under a false name in the coastal Mexican beach city of Puerto Vallarta.

US authorities said on Tuesday the teen planned his escape and he even held a farewell party.

Ethan Couch, 18, became known as the "affluenza" teen during his trial in juvenile court over the 2013 crash. He and his mother were captured by Mexican authorities on Monday in the Pacific Coast beach city of Puerto Vallarta. They were likely to be returned to the United States on Wednesday.

During Couch's trial, a psychologist sparked outrage by saying in his defense that Couch was so wealthy and spoiled he could not tell the difference between right and wrong. He was sentenced to 10 years drug-and-alcohol-free probation for intoxication manslaughter, a punishment condemned by critics as privilege rewarded with leniency.

Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled the country after a video surfaced online apparently showing Couch at a party where beer was being consumed. Authorities had been investigating that video as a potential parole violation.

Couch had missed a mandatory meeting with his probation officer, prompting officials in Tarrant County, Texas, to issue a warrant for his arrest earlier this month.

Couch and his 48-year-old mother were tracked down and captured near Puerto Vallarta's seafront promenade. Mexican authorities said they had been working with the US Marshals Service since Dec. 24 to locate the pair.

The mother and son apparently entered Mexico by land, said Ricardo Vera, a local official for Mexico's National Migration Institute. He said the two did not register when entering Mexico and it was not clear where they came in. Vera said owing to a shortage of seats on Tuesday flights to Houston, the two were now more likely to return to Texas on Wednesday from Jalisco's state capital, Guadalajara.

Local workers in Puerto Vallarta recalled interacting with Couch's mother.

"She came yesterday at around noon and returned at around 1 pm, looking around in the clothing, found nothing, and was going to return at around 7, 730 pm, but never came back," said one laundromat worker.

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