Third suit filed against parents of teenage pickup driver accused in 4 deaths

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The mother of the 24-year-old motorist who was one of four people killed after her car broke down on Burleson-Retta Road in June has sued the parents of the 16-year-old pickup driver whom authorities have accused of causing the deaths.

Marla Mitchell of Johnson County filed the third such suit Monday in Tarrant County civil court against Fred and Tanya Couch. Their family-owned company, Cleburne Metal Works, is also named in the suit.

Mitchell’s suit says that late on June 15, her daughter, Breanna Mitchell, called to ask her mother to pick her up because her car had broken down. Breanna Mitchell told her mother that she had driven off the road and into a grassy ditch to avoid oncoming traffic.

Marla Mitchell was driving and talking to her daughter on her cellphone when Breanna Mitchell “suddenly stopped talking,” the suit says.

When Marla Mitchell arrived, she saw her daughter lying dead on the ground.

Also dead were Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings, and Hollie and Shelby Boyles, a mother and daughter who came from their nearby home to help Breanna Mitchell.

The 16-year-old pickup driver slammed into Breanna Mitchell’s vehicle at high speed, throwing her and those who had stopped to help a “substantial distance,” the lawsuit says.

The driver was intoxicated and also was “an inexperienced, incompetent and reckless” driver, the suit states. He was driving with a restricted license, but his parents “entrusted him” with a pickup belonging to their company, the suit says.

Also, “there are indications that the boy was on his cell phone,” said Rory Dukes, the Tyler attorney who is representing Mitchell.

Randy Nelson, the Dallas attorney who is representing the Couch family, said he was aware of Mitchell’s suit.

“This is a sad and tragic situation for everyone involved,” he said.

Shaunna Jennings, wife of Brian Jennings; and the parents of Sergio Molina, a passenger in the pickup who was injured when he was thrown out, have also sued the Couches.

The 16-year-old has been charged in Tarrant County juvenile court with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. No trial date has been set.

The Star-Telegram usually does not identify juvenile defendants.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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