Texas Taxpayers Will Foot Most Of Affluent Teen’s Treatment Tab

Taxpayers will pick up most of the $715-a-day cost of state hospital treatment for a well-to-do Texas teenager who killed four people in a drunken driving crash.

Ethan Couch (File)

FORT WORTH (April 12, 2014) Taxpayers will pick up most of the $715-a-day cost of state hospital treatment for Ethan Couch who killed four people and injured two others in a drunken driving crash in June 2013 when he was 16.

Couch, who turned 17 on Friday, was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a list of charges including intoxication manslaughter.

His attorneys argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility, a condition one witness called "affluenza."

At the time, the teen’s parents said they would pay for mental health treatment at a private facility in California, which costs about $35,000 a month, but State District Judge Jean Boyd opted to sent Couch to a state mental hospital in Vernon, where the monthly tab for treatment is about $21,000.

His parents will be charged $1,170 a month, a juvenile court official testified Friday.

Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation in December after the teen pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and decided on probation again in February after Couch pleaded guilty to intoxication assault charges related to two severely injured survivors of the crash.

Authorities said the teen and friends were seen on surveillance video stealing two cases of beer from a store before the June 15, 2013 crash in southern Tarrant County.

On a rural road near Burleson, the teen's pickup truck slammed into four pedestrians, killing youth pastor Brian Jennings, 43, Breanna Mitchell, 24, Shelby Boyles, 21, and her mother, Hollie Boyles, 52.

Jennings, the youth pastor at Alsbury Baptist Church in Burleson, had attended a graduation party for one of his three children and was headed back to the church when he stopped after spotting the disabled SUV in which the three women had been riding and stopped to help.

The boy had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 percent, or three times the legal limit for drivers 21 and older and was driving as fast as 70 miles per hour at the time of the crash, authorities said.

Defense attorneys said the teen needed treatment, not incarceration.


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