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Sheriff: Teen Driver Was Drunk Before Deadly Crash Near Burleson

TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - The Tarrant County Sheriff's Department painted a picture of drunken, under-aged partying, theft and death as it laid out findings of its investiagtion into the Father's Day crash killed four people who were tending to a disabled vehicle near Burleson.

"The first question; was alcohol a factor in the accident?", Sheriff Dee Anderson said during a media briefing.  "From the night we were there we said we believed alcohol was a factor in the accident. Alcohol was definitely a factor in the accident."

Anderson says Ethan Couch, the 16-year old driver of the pickup truck, had a blood alcohol level of .24 at the time of the crash.

"Three times the legal limit in Texas," Anderson said.

About an hour before the wreck, Anderson said some of the pick-up's occupants were caught on a surveillence tape stealing two cases of beer from a Wal-Mart.  The sheriff says the teens had tried to buy beer at a convenience store but were turned down.

And CBS 11 has learned Couch had a prior run-in with the law because of alcohol use.  He had tickets in the community of Lakeside for speeding, minor in posession of alcohol and illegal consumption of alcohol back  this year. Ironically, official paper work shows as part of his punishment,  Couch was to attend an alcohol awareness class four days after the deadly crash in June.

Investigators say Crouch gunned his pick up as he left a party the night of the crash.  The crash site was only about 400 yards away from that party - and investigators say even in that short distance, he was already driving 70 miles per hour. The sheriff's department says it will now hand the case to prosecutors.

"I will tell you that they're going to carry this is the juvenile world of law," Anderson said.

But right after the press conference, District Attorney Joe Shannon released a statement saying they're not sure if they'll try Couch as a juvenile or an adult, stating, quote: "Prosecutors' ethics prohibit us from discussing the details of the pending case in the media and we will not do so.  We are unable to speculate when and what charges will be filed."

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