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Deadly Drunk Driving Probation Sentence Leaves Families Stunned

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Several families sat stunned and in tears in a Tarrant County juvenile courtroom on Tuesday.

Emotions were high after a judge sentenced teenager Ethan Couch to 10 years probation for a drunk driving crash that killed four people back in June.

As Eric Boyles, a North Texas man who had family members killed in the crash, walked from the court he tried to speak through the tears. "I apologize," he said, "it's been an emotional day."

For the first time since the accident Boyles broke his silence. "We had over 180 years of life taken, future life not 180 years lived, but 180 years of future life taken and two of those were my wife and daughter."

Hollie and Shelby Boyles had left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV broke down on a dark, narrow Tarrant County road.

Youth pastor Brian Jennings was driving past the mother and daughter and pulled over to help. That's when investigators say Ethan Couch slammed into everyone.

The teenager admitted he was drinking and driving. At the time of the crash his blood alcohol was three times the legal limit.

Speaking about the punishment of probation defense attorney Scott Brown said, "There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families."

Standing before the judge lawyers for Couch had argued that the boy's parents should share the blame for the crash, because they gave him everything he wanted. The teenager's attorneys pleaded for a sentence that involved therapy in California, at cost $450,000 a year, rather than years behind bars.

"She [judge] fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years," Brown said. "And if Ethan doesn't do what he's supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all then this judge or an adult judge when he's transferred can then incarcerate him."

Eric Boyles didn't agree with the judge's sentence or the assertion that therapy is what the young perpetrator needed. "Money always seems to keep Ethan out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court, that for justice, for money not to prevail and ultimately today I felt like money did prevail."

Ethan Couch's family did not want to talk to a CBS 11 News crew.

As for the victims families they were hoping for closure. "Today could have been a good start at that, unfortunately the wounds that it opened only makes the healing process that much greater and more difficult," Boyles said.

CBS 11 wanted to talk to State District Judge Jean Boyd about her decision, but she said at this point she's just not making any comments.

Judge Boyd did not release Ethan Couch to the custody of his parents. He will remain in juvenile detention until the judge decides on a permanent placement for his treatment.

(©2013 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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