Fort Worth

Tonya Couch, mom of ‘affluenza’ teen, has bond restrictions eased

Tonya Couch reacts to a media question Monday after a brief court appearance.
Tonya Couch reacts to a media question Monday after a brief court appearance.

The bond restrictions for Tonya Couch — who is accused of helping her son, Ethan, flee the country in December — have been eased so she can search for a job, her attorney said Monday after a brief court appearance.

Tonya Couch, 49, appeared in state District Judge Wayne Salvant’s court for about 15 minutes during a routine consultation docket Monday.

She was indicted last month on felony charges of hindering the apprehension of a felon and money laundering.

Don Carter, her attorney, said he and prosecutors agreed to reset the case Monday to allow more time for investigation. Carter said he expects Couch’s case to go to trial.

Prosecutors say she went to Mexico in December with her son, who had missed a probation appointment after a video surfaced showing someone who looked like him at a beer pong party.

Ethan Couch, 19, was sentenced to 10 years of probation after he killed four people in a drunken-driving crash in 2013.

The Couches were arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Dec. 28 and later returned separately to Fort Worth.

Tonya Couch has been on house arrest with a GPS monitor fastened to her ankle since Jan. 12, when she was released from Tarrant County Jail on $75,000 bail.

Carter said Salvant modified Couch’s curfew to give her more time to search for a job, but he declined to comment further.

When Couch was asked a question, Carter responded for her: “She has nothing to say.”

A future court appearance for Couch has not been scheduled. Her amended bond conditions had not been filed with the district clerk’s office as of 11 a.m. Monday.

Ethan Couch is serving a 720-day stint in the Tarrant County Jail as a condition of his adult probation.

In June 2013, he crashed his pickup into a group of people off Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County.

Killed in the crash were Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian, whose car had broken down; Hollie Boyles, 52, and Shelby Boyles, 21, who lived nearby and had come outside to help Mitchell; and Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings, 41, a passer-by who had also stopped to help.

Couch became known as the “affluenza” teen because a witness at his trial testified that he didn’t know right from wrong as a result of his wealthy upbringing.

His case was transferred to the adult court system and assigned to Salvant when he turned 19 in April.

Fleeing to Mexico

After spending time at rehab facilities in Vernon and Amarillo, Ethan Couch was back in the news Dec. 2, when the beer pong video surfaced.

The next day he didn’t respond to calls from his probation officer. A warrant to apprehend him was issued a week later when he missed an appointment with the probation officer.

An investigator found that Tonya Couch drove her son to Mexico, and she told her husband before leaving that he would never see their son again, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram.

The investigator contacted Tonya Couch’s husband, Fred, on Dec. 16. He said his wife told him she was concerned that their son’s probation would be revoked, according to the affidavit.

The investigator served a search warrant for Tonya Couch’s financial records and found that she had withdrawn $30,000 from a personal account. The investigator saw no account activity after Dec. 3.

A subpoena was filed earlier this month to obtain video footage of Tonya Couch at a Chase Bank in Fort Worth on Dec. 3.

Witnesses told the investigator that Tonya Couch was present Dec. 3 when her son discussed traveling to Mexico.

The investigator also learned that after Dec. 3, phone numbers routinely used by Tonya Couch and her son were no longer active, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The investigator found that Ethan Couch did not have a driver’s license or own a vehicle, but Tonya Couch owned a black 2011 Ford F-150 pickup, the affidavit said.