'Affluenza' Teen May Have Fled Country With Mom

Feds join search for Ethan Couch
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2015 12:48 AM CST
'Affluenza' Teen May Have Fled Country With Mom
Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of teenager Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future on Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas.   (AP Photo/LM Otero)

"Affluenza" teen Ethan Couch is still a fugitive and authorities fear his wealthy family may have taken mollycoddling to a whole new level and helped him flee the country. When probation officers couldn't reach the 18-year-old after an alleged probation violation, they discovered that the Texas home he shared with his mother had been cleaned out apart from a pinball machine, reports Reuters. Officials say the US Marshals Service and the FBI have now joined the search for the teenager and his mother, Tonya Couch, but sources tell Reuters that Couch's father has told investigators that the pair's passports are gone, sparking fears that they may have fled the country with a considerable head start on authorities.

"With the wealth and the wherewithal that his family has, it's going to be a tough assignment for us to find him," Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson tells the Dallas Morning News. "This is a family that knows how to game the system and has done so from the start," the sheriff tells Reuters, adding that the teen "got a big jump on us because he was gone before any of us knew that he was missing." No warrant for Tonya Couch has been issued, though she will be charged if it's determined that she helped her son evade authorities, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Couch's "affluenza" defense helped him dodge a prison sentence after he killed four people while driving drunk in 2013, but he'll have no such luck if he's captured. "He's going to see what the big-boy jail is like," a sheriff's office spokesman tells the Morning News. (The psychologist who used "affluenza" in court regrets it.)

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