Media spotlight will help in catching Texas 'affluenza' teen: sheriff

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Texas Sheriff Wants 'Affluenza' Teen To See 'What The Big-Boy Jail Is Like'

The search for a Texas teen from a wealthy family, missing after apparently breaking a probation deal that kept him out of prison for killing four people, has been aided by publicity that could lead to his arrest, a sheriff leading the probe said on Tuesday.

SEE MORE: 'Affluenza teen' Ethan Couch missing, says probation officer

Ethan Couch, 18, convicted about two years ago in juvenile court for intoxication manslaughter, is being sought as a fugitive. His mother, Tonya Couch, 48, has been declared missing and is believed to be with her son, according to the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office.

At age 16, Couch was speeding and had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit when he lost control of his pickup truck and fatally struck a stranded motorist on the side of the road and three Good Samaritans who had stopped to help.

Photos from the case:

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'Affluenza' teen given probation Ethan Couch
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Media spotlight will help in catching Texas 'affluenza' teen: sheriff
This Dec. 28, 2015 photo released by Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutorís office shows who authorities identify as Ethan Couch, after he was taken into custody in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. U.S. authorities said the Texas teenager serving probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck after invoking an "affluenza" defense, was in custody in Mexico, weeks after he and his mother disappeared. (Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutorís office via AP)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking the "affluenza" defense, an argument that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
This frame grab taken from a Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 video provided by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Migracion, INM, shows Ethan Couch, escorted onto a plane by Mexican immigration agents, in Mexico City. INM says it has taken the Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident to the Mexico City airport, to fly him back to Texas to face charges. Couch was placed on a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas. (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM via AP)
This frame grab taken from a Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 video provided by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Migracion, INM, shows Ethan Couch, as he is escorted by Mexican immigration agents, upon their arrival to the international airport in Mexico City. INM says it has taken the Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident to the Mexico City airport, to fly him back to Texas to face charges. The institute said Thursday that Couch would be placed on a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas. (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM via AP)
This undated wanted poster photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking a defense that he suffered from "affluenza." (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
Lucas McConnell, 13, right wipes tears from his eyes after speaking to reporters with his attorney Todd Clement, left, by his side Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Burleson, Texas. The family of Lucas McConnell, injured by a drunken teen driver whose attorneys later claimed he suffered from "affluenza," plans to continue its lawsuit against the driver. While most families who sued Ethan Couch over a wreck that left four dead have settled, the McConnell's will continue fighting Couch in court. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Attorney Todd Clement, second from left, speaks during new conference with his client Lucas McConnell, 13, center right, Alesia McConnell, left, and Kevin McConnell look on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Burleson, Texas. The family of Lucas McConnell, injured by a drunken teen driver whose attorneys later claimed he suffered from "affluenza," plans to continue its lawsuit against the driver. While most families who sued Ethan Couch over a wreck that left four dead have settled, the McConnell's will continue fighting Couch in court. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
FILE - In this December 2013 image taken from a video by KDFW-FOX 4, Ethan Couch is seen during his court hearing in Fort Worth, Texas. The family of Couch, who killed four people in a drunken wreck, have reached a settlement of more than $2 million with the family of a teenage boy left disabled. Tarrant County court documents filed Friday show that the liability insurer of Ethan Couchâs parents agreed to pay $1.64 million in cash to a trust established for Sergio E. Molina. (AP Photo/KDFW-FOX 4, File)
Ethan Couch, center, sits in juvenile court for a hearing about his future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Ethan Couch, center, sits in juvenile court for a hearing about his future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of teenager Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of teenager Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Fred Couch, father of teenager Ethan Couch, collects his belt after clearing security as he arrives at juvenile court for a hearing about his son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. A judge on Wednesday ordered Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, defense attorney Reagan Wynn and prosecutors told reporters after the hearing, which was closed to the public. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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At Couch's trial, a psychologist who testified on his behalf said he was afflicted with "affluenza," where he was so spoiled that he could not tell the difference between right and wrong. The diagnosis is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

"We are optimistic that we will catch them," Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said. "They can only hide for so long before someone spots them and contacts us."

Tips about the two have increased since the U.S. Marshal Service issued a wanted poster for the teen and put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Law enforcement officials also are searching for Tonya Couch's missing truck, a black 2011 Ford F-150.

"We are making progress," Anderson said on Tuesday. "We're following up on a lot of tips about possible sightings."

Anderson said it was possible that mother and son had fled the country because their passports had been reported missing by the teen's father, who has been cooperating with authorities.
Authorities fear 'affluenza teen' on the run may have fled US

SEE MORE: Authorities fear 'affluenza teen' on the run may have fled US

They would be identified by their passports should they try to use them to leave the country. So far, the two have not left an obvious trail for law enforcement officers, Anderson said.

Tarrant County officials issued a warrant for Ethan Couch after he missed a mandatory meeting with his probation officer nearly two weeks ago. An investigation into a possible probation violation began early in December when a video came out showing him at a beer-pong party.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz Editing by Sandra Maler)

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