Ethan Couch was 16 years old when he became one of the most infamous teens in the United States. In 2013, Couch, AKA the Affluenza Kid, killed four people while driving drunk. His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was three times the legal limit. Then Couch defended himself by saying he didn't know it was wrong due to his privileged upbringing. This defense caused public outrage, but the story only got stranger after the teen was sentenced - to 10 years of probation.
When Couch later went to prison in Texas, it wasn't for vehicular manslaughter. Instead, he had violated his probation and fled to Mexico with his mother. While the Couch family has been made to pay millions of dollars to the victims' families, it was an uphill battle to receive reparation, as Couch's parents didn't believe they should be held responsible for the incident. The state released Couch after he served only two years, causing an uproar from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as well as the community.
On June 15, 2013, an intoxicated Ethan Couch, 16, went for a joyride with his friends on a rural road in Burleson, Texas. Just down the way, a tire had blown out on Breanna Mitchell's car, running her off the road, and a nearby family had come out to help. These Good Samaritans were Hollie and Eric Boyles, their 21-year-old daughter Shelby, and a youth minister named Brian Jennings.
When Jennings arrived, he told his two teenage passengers to keep their seatbelts on while he went out to investigate. Eric had just gone into the garage when everything came to a crashing halt.
Driving at speeds that exceeded 70 miles per hour, Couch and his group of friends swerved off the road and plowed into the broken-down car, as well as all the people around it. Mitchell, Hollie, Shelby, and Jennings were all killed by the impact, which reportedly sounded like an explosion.
Couch escaped his flipped vehicle without serious harm, but his passengers and others at the scene were severely injured or killed. When the ambulances arrived, there were four dead and nine wounded. A local sheriff said it “looked more like a plane crash than a car wreck.”
Prior to the fatal accident, Couch got the keys to his Father's F-350 pick-up truck and went out for a night of partying. He rounded up a group of seven friends, sitting some of them in the bed of the truck and others inside the cab, and drove them to a Walmart. Couch stole two cases of beer from the store and began to drink.
After the crash, Couch’s blood examination also tested positive for Valium and THC. When Couch and his friends decided to leave the party and go to a convenience store, his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .24 was three times the legal limit for an adult.
When the case arrived in court, Couch's defense came forward with an unusual explanation for his actions. They claimed his wealthy upbringing had left him detached from the world - and unable to determine right from wrong or realize the consequences of his actions. They called this condition "Affluenza," which is not a medically recognized ailment.
Couch's defense brought in an expert psychologist named Dr. G. Dick Miller. According to Miller, Couch's parents taught him that wealthy people deserved special treatment, as they are held to a lower moral standard. Couch's irresponsible lifestyle resulted from the way his parents raised him. Miller reportedly continued:
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.
When Couch was 13, he drove himself to school, and the principal found out. His parents were called, at which point his father, Fred, wielded his financial power - claiming he could purchase the school. Fred then transferred Couch to a private homeschool program.
At age 15, he left school entirely. When Couch's parents divorced in 2006, both were interviewed during court ordered evaluations about the state of their household, and the courts later found the nine pages of transcripts incriminating.
Fred claimed his ex-wife was a pill addict who had given their son Vicodin on several occasions. Tonya blamed the failed marriage on Fred’s physical and emotional abuse. She also alleged he had engaged in extra-marital affairs and used their immense wealth to silence concerned family members.