June 15, 2013 in Burleson, Texas…
A little before 11 pm, Breanna Mitchell was driving home from work when she spun out on Burleson-Retta Road in a suburb of Ft. Worth, Texas.
Neighbor Eric Boyles, his wife, Hollie, and daughter, Shelby, went outside to see what had happened.
Breanna used a cell phone to call her mother and everyone was waiting for her to arrive.
Pastor Brian Jennings, his godson, Lucas McConnell, and Isaiah McLaughlin were on their way to return some items they had borrowed from the church when they chanced upon Breanna’s SUV on the side of the road. Brian stopped to offer assistance and told the young boys to stay in his car.
Meanwhile, 16 year old Ethan Couch was throwing a party at his family’s second home. There were no adults present and most of the minors at the party were drinking beer they had stolen from Walmart earlier that evening.
Despite being intoxicated, Ethan and 4 others got into his truck and 2 kids jumped in the bed. They headed off for the convenience store.
Ethan was driving recklessly. He sped down the country road at 70 miles per hour and crossed into oncoming traffic. His passengers were pleading for him to slow down.
He jerked the truck back into his lane, narrowly avoiding a car coming in the other direction, and the vehicle went barreling toward the ditch.
The truck collided with Breanna’s SUV. The SUV was pushed into the truck driven by Brian. Brian’s truck was thrown into the roadway, stopping in the on-coming traffic lane.
Hollie, Shelby, Brian and Breanna were all standing directly in Ethan’s path. Eric heard the crash from inside his home. He raced outside to find his wife and daughter dead. Shelby had been thrown 20 feet and into a fence by the impact.
Kevin McConnell passed the wreckage and recognized his best friend’s vehicle. He found Brian in the ditch and immediately began CPR.
The next person to chance upon the scene was Shaunna Jennings, Brian’s wife. Brian and Breanna both died from their injuries.
Ethan had been thrown from the truck, but was able to get a quarter of a mile away from the wreckage before he passed out in a ditch. Shanna Clark and her son saw him as they were driving past.
Shanna left her son with Ethan while she went for help. When Ethan came to, he told the boy, “Hey man, I am, I am Ethan, I can get you out of all of this.” 
Ethan was disoriented, but scarcely injured. Shanna and the police tried to get Ethan to the hospital, but Ethan refused saying he couldn’t afford an ambulance.
Sergio Molina was in the bed of the truck when Ethan crashed. He was thrown from the vehicle and landed on his head. He is confined to a wheelchair. He cannot speak, but has learned to blink to respond yes or no.
When it was discovered that Ethan was the driver, he was arrested. He was charged with 4 counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxicated assault (the two boys that were in Brian’s truck survived). Ethan’s blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit.
Ethan went to trial in December 2013. Dr. G. Dick Miller testified for the defense saying that Ethan suffered from “affluenza.”
Ethan was born April 11, 1997 to Fred and Tonya Couch. Fred owned a sheet metal company and Tonya was a nurse. The family was extremely wealthy.
Dr. Miller testified that Ethan’s life of privilege resulted in a lack of parenting. He said that Ethan was never taught right from wrong and that he and his parents believed that they could buy their way out of any situation.
Dr. Miller suggested that the best thing for Ethan was to be separated from his parents. He suggested a treatment facility where he would have no access to alcohol and could learn basic social skills.
Because of his age, Ethan was sentenced in juvenile court to treatment and 10 years probation. The treatment center could be chosen, and would be paid for, by his parents.
This was not Ethan’s first run in with the law. He had been found in a Dollar General parking lot the year before with a passed out girl in his pickup truck. Ethan and the girl smelled of alcohol. The officer that found him lectured and ticketed him then released him to his mother. Ethan was put on 6 months probation and ordered to attend alcohol-awareness courses and do community service. He did not do either and was 4 days away from being arrested for non-compliance when he slammed into Breanna’s car.
In 1999, Fred was arrested for punching a man he worked with. He spent a couple of nights in jail and was put on probation. Later in 2009, he was accused of sexual harassment by a woman that worked for him. He settled the case out of court.
In 2003, Tonya was arrested for reckless driving after she ran a woman off the road. She was fined and received probation. She lost her nursing license when she lied on her application to renew in 2005. The misinformation went unnoticed until 2012.
In late 2015, a video surfaced on social media that showed Ethan playing beer pong at a party. This was a clear violation of his parole. When he failed to show up for a meeting with his probation fficer, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
He and his mother were tracked to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after he used his phone to order a pizza from Dominoes. Tonya was extradited back to the United States and arrested for hindering the apprehension of a felon and money laundering. She stole the money for the trip from Fred’s bank account. The two were in the process of getting a divorce, for the second time.
Ethan intentionally missed his plane from Mexico to avoid extradition, but was eventually sent back to the United States and arrested.
Ethan was tried as an adult for violating his probation and was sentenced to 720 days in jail. He was released in April 2018. He will have to wear an ankle monitor that tracks his location and blood alcohol level. He also has a curfew. He will remain on probation for 6 more years.
Tonya was released on bond. In June 2016, Tonya requested that a judge change her mandated curfew so that she could find a job. She began working a country and western nightclub in the Dallas area. She was arrested the week before her son’s release after failing a mandatory drug and alcohol test. She is still yet to go to trial on the hindering and money laundering charges.
Family members of all 4 of Ethan’s victims filed civil suits against Fred, Tonya and their business (the truck Ethan was driving was registered to Fred’s company). Sergio’s family and the parents of the two boys in Brian’s truck also filed suits. All of the cases were settled out of court. The Couches have never admitted any guilt in the crime.
In 2016, Fred was arrested again for impersonating a police officer. He was sentenced to community service and probation.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at