Two years ago, Ethan Couch seemed like the luckiest teen in the world.
On June 15, 2013, the then-16-year-old drunkenly climbed behind the wheel of his pickup truck and went for a nighttime drive near Fort Worth. Crammed inside his pickup were five friends; two more sat in the back. With his blood-alcohol level three times the adult driving limit and with traces of Valium and marijuana in his system, Couch couldn’t stay on the road. Going more than 70 mph, he swerved into a broken-down car.
The crash killed four people working on the disabled car. Two of Couch’s friends were critically injured. One was paralyzed. The collision could be heard from a half-mile away. Afterward, pieces of people and automobiles were scattered over an area the size of a football field.
The carnage “looked more like a plane crash than a car wreck,” a Tarrant County Sheriff’s deputy later recalled.
When it came time for Couch’s day in court, though, a psychologist argued that the fatal crash largely could be chalked up to the teenager’s condition: “affluenza.”
Couch was the product of “profoundly dysfunctional” millionaire parents who encouraged his bad behavior, according to G. Dick Miller, the psychologist.
“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,” Miller testified in court, according to ABC News.
Couch pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated. Prosecutors pushed for a sentence as stiff as 20 years in prison.
Thanks largely to Miller’s diagnosis, though, Couch escaped prison altogether. Instead, a judge sentenced him to rehab and 10 years of drug-and-alcohol-free probation.
The light sentence shocked America, particularly relatives of the four people killed because Couch’s drunk driving.
“You lived a life of privilege and entitlement, and my prayer is that it does not get you out of this,” said Shaunna Jennings, whose husband died in the accident. “My fear is that it will get you out of this.”
Earlier this month, that fear seemed to be confirmed when a video surfaced appearing to show Couch breaking his probation.
In a six-second clip posted to Twitter on Dec. 2, a blond teen strongly resembling the now-18-year-old Couch can be seen clapping and laughing during a raucous game of beer pong.
“Ya boy ethan couch violating probation,” wrote @BlondeSpectre, tagging both the city of Burleson, Tex., and the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. “I got more if u want.”
Authorities launched an investigation into the infamous teen’s behavior.
A Tarrant County sheriff’s spokesman told the Dallas Morning News that a judge would decide whether Couch violated his probation.
“He’s allowed due process at every level,” Tarrant County Sheriff’s spokesman Terry Grisham said. Cases “are not prosecuted or revoked or modified based on hearsay or based on a grainy video that we can’t identify someone in.”
On Tuesday, though, Couch’s charmed life began to crumble once again when a judge issued a “directive to apprehend” him for missing a probation hearing, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Police are now searching for the troubled teen and his mom, with orders to detain the teen.
“We have recently learned for the last several days the juvenile probation officer has been unable to make contact with Ethan or his mother, with whom he’s been residing,” Couch’s attorneys, Regan Wynn and Scott Brown, said in a statement to NBC DFW. “It’s our understanding that the court has issued a directive to apprehend to have Ethan detained because he is out of contact with his probation officer.”
“We can confirm only that we are looking into the whereabouts of Ethan Couch and his mother,” the Tarrant County district attorney’s office told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday.
It’s unclear what repercussions Couch could face if he is caught. Adult probation violators are often sent to prison, although they sometimes simply receive a warning.
Couch, though, is in the juvenile system. Last month, prosecutors filed a motion to transfer Couch to adult probation on his 19th birthday in April, according to the Star-Telegram.