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The 'Affluenza Teen' Who Killed Four People While Drunk Driving May Have Fled the Country

Ethan Couch, who killed four people while driving drunk at 16, is reportedly on the run after a video surfaced of him violating his probabtion by playing beer pong.
Affluenza teen Ethan Couch looking affluent. Photo via ABC Chicago.

Move over, Pharma Bro, there's a new contender for America's least-favorite man of the month: Ethan Couch—the so-called "Affluenza Teen" who famously ducked jail time after killing four people in 2013 while drunk driving, partly because his shrink said he was a spoiled brat and didn't know any better—may, authorities believe, have fled the country.

His original crime occurred on June 15, 2013, when the then-16-year-old Couch got behind of the wheel of his pickup truck after a night of partying. He'd been drinking, had smoked some weed, and taken valium. Regardless, he crammed five friends into the cab of his truck, and let two sit in the back for a nighttime drive near Fort Worth. He couldn't stay on the road, and at 70 mph [112 kmh] swerved and hit a broken-down car on the shoulder. The four people working on the stalled car were dead, and two of Couch's friends were critically injured.


The aftermath, described later by a Tarrant County Sheriff's deputy in a story for D Magazine, "looked more like a plane crash than a car wreck."

When Couch saw his day in court, psychologist G. Dick Miller famously said his actions could be blamed on a severe case of "affluenza," essentially arguing the teen—a product of extremely rich parents who taught him he could do no wrong—was so tainted by his millionaire parents that he was basically a rudderless ship left adrift in the world.

On the stand, Miller described the condition: "Instead of the golden rule, which was, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' [Couch] was taught, 'We have the gold, we make the rules at the Couch household," he said in testimony, according to ABC News.

News of the defense quickly pissed a lot of people off. That outrage was amplified when Couch, who'd pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated, avoided prison and was sentenced to rehab and ten years of drug-and-alcohol-free probation. Prosecutors, according to the Washington Post, had pushed for a sentence as stiff as 20 years behind bars.

Two years later, after Couch missed a meeting with his probation officer on Tuesday, Tarrant County, Texas Sheriff Dee Anderson suggested Couch was likely spooked his liberty was in jeopardy after a video on him playing beer pong leaked on Twitter.

In the six-second video, someone with a striking resemblance to Couch is seen smiling, laughing, and looking on as one of his obnoxious friends swan-dives onto a table of half full cups of beer. The video likely represented a violation of the terms of Couch's parole, which outraged the families of his victims.

"They felt like if they stayed, he continued to cooperate that at some point the other shoe was going to drop and he was going to be arrested anyway," Sheriff Anderson told Fox News 4 in Dallas-Fort Worth. "So I think they took the opportunity to run before that happened."

Now the FBI and US Marshals are assisting the Tarrant County Sheriff's office in their search for the teen, which includes checking international flight manifests. The Sheriff's office has opened up a tip line for anyone with information concerning the teenager's whereabouts.

Anderson also believes the teen's mother, Tanya Couch—also missing—may be aiding her son in avoiding captivity, a crime she would be charged for should it turn out to be the case. Tanya and her son could have as much as a ten-day head-start on those looking for them.

"If he'd have been locked up and held accountable the first time, none of this would've happened," Tarrant County Sheriff Anderson told Fox News 4.