Authorities are still looking for Ethan Couch, the Tarrant County teenager who killed four people in a 2013 drunken-driving crash.
Randy Turner, chief probation officer for Tarrant County Juvenile Services, confirmed that his department issued a directive Tuesday to area law enforcement agencies to apprehend Couch.
The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department started searching for Couch on Wednesday morning after being notified of the directive, “which is like a juvenile version of an arrest warrant,” Sheriff Dee Anderson said.
Anderson said the fugitive unit is looking for him with the help of other agencies and the national criminal database.
Wherever Couch is found, the local agency will detain him and turn him over to Tarrant County, which will place him in a juvenile facility, Anderson said.
“My personal belief is he has probably run some distance,” Anderson told the Star-Telegram late Wednesday. “I fear he has had a pretty good head start. Reports are his mother is gone also, and I don’t think they are going to be found locally.”
WFAA News reported that Couch was sought after he missed an appointment with his probation officer. The teen was sentenced to 10 years of probation after a 2013 wreck on Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County.
“After he missed his appointment the probation officials went out to his house where he was supposed to be staying with his mom, and that started the whole process,” Anderson said.
Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said prosecutors are still investigating a video of Couch allegedly at a party where alcohol appeared to be present.
The 6-second clip posted on Twitter last month shows a person resembling Couch clapping as someone else dives onto a table of red cups and cans of Miller Lite.
“My personal belief is when that video came out, I feel he felt like he violated his probation, and I believe that was the trigger that caused him to up and run,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that no warrant has been issued for Tonya Couch but that she will be charged if it is found that she helped her son avoid detention.
A motion to transfer Couch’s case to an adult court was filed by the district attorney’s office last month. A court date is still pending. If the motion is not granted, Couch’s probation will expire in April when he turns 19.
“I’ve got 140 deputies out looking for fugitives every day, and if we had a ‘top 10 wanted’ list, he’d be No. 1,” Anderson said.
Contacted Wednesday, Shaunna Jennings, whose husband, Brian Jennings, was killed in the 2013 wreck, said, “It’s out of our hands.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon asking everyone to be on the lookout for Couch.
“Four people were hit and killed, and no one was held responsible,” MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church wrote. “This is egregious. ‘Affluenza’ aside, Ethan Couch appears to show blatant disregard for the law, and he must be held accountable.”
Ryan Osborne: 817-390-7684, @RyanOsbornFWST