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

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' Ethan Couch case
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Media spotlight will help in catching Texas 'affluenza' teen: sheriff
U.S. national Ethan Couch is pictured in this undated handout photograph made available to Reuters on December 29, 2015 by the Jalisco state prosecutor office. Couch, a Texas teen from a wealthy family who was a fugitive after breaking his probation sentence for killing four people while driving drunk, has been taken into custody in Mexico, a law enforcement official said on Monday. Couch, 18, nicknamed the "affluenza" teen, was serving 10 years probation for intoxication manslaughter in the 2013 incident. REUTERS/Fiscalia General del Estado de Jalisco/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Tonya Couch (R) is escorted by a sheriff's deputy as she arrives at the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth, Texas, January 7, 2016. Couch, the mother of Texas teenager Ethan Couch, derided for a defense of "affluenza" in his trail for killing four people while driving drunk, was flown on Thursday from Los Angeles to Texas, where she faces an indictment for helping her son escape to Mexico. REUTERS/Paul Moseley/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram/Pool
A worker of Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) sweeps outside the immigration office where Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager derided for his "affluenza" defense in a deadly drunken-driving case, is held at the Iztapalapa neighbourhood in Mexico City, Mexico, January 5, 2016. Couch, 18, is fighting extradition to the United States. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Ethan Couch, 18, is shown in this handout photo provided by the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department in Fort Worth, Texas, December 17, 2015. Numerous tips have been reported on the possible whereabouts of a Texas teen from a wealthy family suspected of violating a probation deal that kept him out of prison for killing four people in a drunken-driving crash, a sheriff said on Friday. REUTERS/Tarrant County Sheriff's Dept/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX1Z6PN
Vehicles drive past to the apartment building where Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya Couch stayed in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico December 30, 2015. The wealthy Texas teenager who fled with his mother to Mexico avoided an ostentatious lifestyle in the pair's last days at a beach getaway full of hotels, restaurants and bars popular with American tourists, according to people who saw them.The fugitive pair opted for a modest apartment, kept a low profile, and the mother at least once used a false name as they tried to stay under the radar in the Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta, locals and neighbors said. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Ethan Couch, the so-called "affluenza" teen, is brought into court for his adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner/Pool, File Photo
Tonya Couch (R) enters the courtroom to appear before state District Judge Wayne Salvant in Fort Worth, Texas, January 8, 2016. Couch, the mother of Ethan Couch, a Texas teenager, ridiculed for his "affluenza" defense in the killing of four people while he was driving drunk, was arraigned in a Fort Worth court on Friday on a charge of helping her son flee to Mexico after he was suspected of violating probation. REUTERS/Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Pool
Ethan Couch is seen in a February 5, 2016 booking photo released by the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department in Ft Worth, Texas. Couch, the Texas teenager who was derided for an "affluenza" defense for killing four people while driving drunk, has been transferred to an adult jail on Friday from the juvenile center where he has been held for more than a week, online jail records showed. REUTERS/Tarrant County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A Los Tules hotel employee shows Reuters a room where Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya Couch stayed for five days (Dec. 20-25) in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico December 30, 2015. Couch, the wealthy Texas teenager who fled with his mother to Mexico, tried to keep a low profile while the two of them stayed at the popular getaway for American tourists, but they still stood out, according to people who saw them. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Ethan Couch, the so-called "affluenza" teen, is brought into court for his adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas April 13, 2016. A Texas county judge sentenced Couch on Wednesday to serve four consecutive 180-day terms in jail for violating a juvenile probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people while driving drunk in 2013. REUTERS/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner/Pool
Ethan Couch (L), the so-called "affluenza" teen, is seated next to his attorney Scott Brown as he appears in his first adult court hearing in Fort Worth, Texas April 13, 2016. A Texas county judge sentenced Couch on Wednesday to serve four consecutive 180-day terms in jail for violating a juvenile probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people while driving drunk in 2013. REUTERS/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner/Pool
Ethan Couch is seen in a February 5, 2016 booking photo released by the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department in Ft Worth, Texas. Couch, the Texas teenager who was derided for an "affluenza" defense for killing four people while driving drunk, has been transferred to an adult jail on Friday from the juvenile center where he has been held for more than a week, online jail records showed. REUTERS/Tarrant County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A laundry clerk shows the ticket in which Tonya Couch wrote a false name, during her stay with her son Ethan Couch, 18, in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico December 29, 2015. The wealthy Texas teenager who fled with his mother to Mexico avoided an ostentatious lifestyle in the pair's last days at a beach getaway full of hotels, restaurants and bars popular with American tourists, according to people who saw them.The fugitive pair opted for a modest apartment, kept a low profile, and the mother at least once used a false name as they tried to stay under the radar in the Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta, locals and neighbors said. Picture taken on December 29. REUTERS/Heny Romero
Cars drive past a building where Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother Tonya Couch stayed at in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico December 29, 2015. Ethan Couch, the rich Texas teenager who fled with his mother to Mexico to avoid possible jail time for violating his probation in a drunken-driving crash that left four people dead planned the flight and even held a farewell party, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Henry Romero
FORT WORTH, TX - JANUARY 7: In this handout photo provided by Lon Evans Correctional Center, Tonya Couch appears for a booking photon on January 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. Tonya Couch, mother of 'affluenza' teen Ethan Couch, was arrested on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon after assisting her son in fleeing the country to Mexico. Ethan Couch was serving a 10 year probation sentence for four counts of manslaughter stemming from a drunk driving accident. (Photo by Lon Evans Correctional Center via Getty Images)
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson talks with reporters after Tonya Couch, mother of Ethan Couch, appeared before state District Judge Wayne Salvant on Jan. 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Ethan Couch, in this white SUV, returns to North Texas to the Scott D. Moore Juvenile Justice Center on Jan. 28, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 5: Tonya Couch, 38, (L) mother of ``affluenza' teen Ethan Couch, appears in Los Angeles Superior court for an extradition hearing January 5, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. Couch faces a felony charge in Texas for allegedly helping her 18-year-old son flee the country while out on probation. (Photo by Genaro Molina/Pool/Getty Images)
Steven McWilliams, Tonya's son and Ethan Couch's half-brother, testifies at Tonya Couch's bond reduction hearing on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, at Criminal District Court No. 2 in Fort Worth, Texas. (David Kent/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED DATE AND LOCATION: (EDITORS NOTE: Best quality available) In this handout provided by the U.S. Marshals, suspect Ethan Couch poses for a mugshot photo. Couch is wanted for probation violation out of Tarrant County, Texas. Couch's case made national news in 2013 when he was sentenced to 10 years probation for the vehicular manslaughter of four people. (Photo by U.S. Marshals via Getty Images)
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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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