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Texas Officials Working To Get "Affluenza" Teen Back To The U.S.

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The question today is -- what's next for once fugitive Ethan Couch? It was just last night when the so-called "affluenza" teen was detained in Mexico. Couch and his mother were located near the Mexican Pacific beach resort town of Puerto Vallarta after a two-week, worldwide manhunt.

The pair first hid out at a high-end resort called Los Tules. They stayed there for a week and a half before moving on to a second location (pictured below) in a quiet neighborhood. The somewhat shoddy apartment cost the Couch's $350 a month.

This is the the apartment where Ethan Couch and his mother were found in Puerto Vallarta. (credit: CBS11/ Ken Molestina)

A sandwich shop owner who works below the apartment told CBS11 she had no idea the pair were fugitives. Many locals said they were in fact, astonished that the mother and son were "wanted" by U.S. officials.

This sandwich shop owner said Ethan Couch and his mother often came into her shop, ordered food, then would quietly return to their apartment. (credit: Ken Molestina/CBS11)

As it stands, Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya, are in the custody of authorities in Mexico. According to a source from the Associated Press, Couch and his mother will spend the night in an immigration facility in Guadalajara before returning stateside Wednesday.

U.S. officials said they know what to do with the pair.

At a press conference held Tuesday morning  Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said, "The Marshal's are working to get them back here to the states. At which point Ethan will be taken into custody and put in our juvenile facility here in Tarrant County for a hearing there, in front of a juvenile judge."

Sheriff Anderson was joined by U.S. Marshal Richard Taylor and Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney  Sharen Wilson. Wilson explained that the "affluenza" teen had a court date scheduled for some time. "There's already a hearing set on January 19th to transfer his juvenile probation to the adult system."


Ethan Couch Wanted Poster
(credit: U.S. Marshals Service)

When Couch and his mother were picked up Monday night the teen had a very different look. When last seen in North Texas the teen had blonde hair. When detained in a beachside Mexican neighborhood the 18-year-old had dyed his hair, mustache and beard jet black.

When asked about the change in Couch's appearance Sheriff Anderson said, "We certainly talked numerous times during the investigation that we believed that they [family] would do everything they could to change their appearance. So, when you see the photo of him... he certainly tried. It was certainly easily recognizable. It didn't seem to work too well."

Officials with the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Jalisco say they worked with the U.S. Marshals Service. The agencies began coordinating the day after Christmas in an effort to find Couch and North Texas officials said it was then that they "were able to really concentrate on the area down there where they were eventually located."

new Ethan COuch 1

When stopped at an intersection, the pair could not prove they had the legal right to stay in the country and were handed over to Mexican immigration authorities.

Couch skipped a meeting with his probation officer earlier this month, after video surfaced, allegedly showing the teen at a party where people were drinking alcohol and playing beer pong. It was a short time after that video started making headlines that Sheriff Anderson said Couch and his mother made a decision. "We learned that they had planned to disappear, that they even had something that was almost akin to a going away party before they left town."

As it pertains to Couch's conviction DA Wilson explained, "We are bound by the sentence that he received from the juvenile court – which was a 10-year probated sentence." She went on to express her dissatisfaction as to what that could mean in terms of the ultimate penalty Couch could receive. "It is an anomaly of Texas law that if we revoke his juvenile sentence he would stay in a juvenile facility until his 19th birthday, which is April 11th of next year. So, if we proceed in a juvenile sentence his maximum sentence that he will receive is four months of confinement. That, in my opinion, is not a sufficient punishment for the taking of four lives."

DA Wilson said that when they go before a judge in January, "Our request of the court is going to be to transfer his probation to the adult court and deal with him in the adult system, where we no longer have to be concerned about the 'best interest of the child' or the child defendant in this case."

Couch was 16-years-old when he was sentenced to 10 years probation after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter for killing four people in a 2013 crash. On December 16, after issuing an arrest warrant, Sheriff Anderson said Couch was one of the their top fugitives. He explained that individuals in his office were especially determined. "People in this agency, who had to work that crime scene and deal with the victim's families and do everything they did, took it very personally. So it was a very high priority for us to make sure that we found him and got him back."

The case sparked national outrage when Couch's lawyers claimed the teen suffered from "affluenza" – an irresponsible attitude that was the result of his rich parents not setting any limits for him. The so-called condition is not a medically recognized diagnosis.

Since the Tarrant County District Attorney has already filed a motion to transfer the teen's case from juvenile to adult court, Sheriff Anderson said Ethan Couch should be treated like any ohter fugitive. "He is now an adult in the eyes of the state and I would like to see him put in an adult prison and serve out the remainder of his 10 year sentence."

Until Tuesday morning it wasn't exactly clear what role Tonya Couch played in her son's evading of authorities. But officials are now hoping to also put the 48-year-old mom behind bars. Sheriff Anderson said, "We have now had an arrest warrant issued for Tonya Couch, for Hindering An Apprehension. So she will be arrested and brought to our jail upon arrival back in the States."

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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