Video: "Affluenza mom" sent to Los Angeles, teen still in Mexico

Mexico has deported [see update] of “Affluenza Mom” Tonya Couch to the US, but not her son Ethan, whose four vehicular homicides first put both of the Couches on the national radar. The CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth reports that the mom’s case was less complicated than the son’s, thanks to an overstay on her visa, but that Mexican authorities are taking Ethan’s case a little more seriously. It may take weeks before Texas authorities see either of them, however:


Tonya Couch arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Mexico in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, and was taken in handcuffs through the terminal to an unmarked Dodge Charger early Thursday morning. She was wearing blue street clothes and looked away from cameras as she walked, flanked by two marshals.

She is now in the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It was unclear why she was brought to Los Angeles instead of Texas, where she and her son live and where he was on probation for the 2013 drunk driving crash. U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Eugene Hwang stated that he could not reveal any details about her trip through California or say how long she might remain here, citing security concerns in transporting someone in custody.

Why Los Angeles? Reuters reports that Tonya is being flown to Texas via California, which makes little sense at all. Texas would actually be closer on a flight than LA from either Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara, where Ethan is being held without bail. The US certainly has plenty of federal facilities in Texas to handle fugitives on the lam. It seems like an unnecessary step under the known circumstances, so it perhaps raises questions about what other trouble Tonya Couch has managed to find. (Or, alternately, it might raise questions about the efficiency of the federal government.) She’s already in plenty of trouble as it is, and might be looking at 10 years in federal prison for her role in helping her son evade justice.


The Couches aren’t exactly master criminals, however, as the manner of their arrest shows:

Mexican police said that Couch and his mother spent three days in a rented condo at a resort development in Puerto Vallarta before finding an apartment. One of the Couches’ telephones had been used to order delivery from Domino’s Pizza to the condominium complex in Puerto Vallarta’s old town, according to a police report issued by the Jalisco state prosecutors’ office.

Agents from the prosecutors’ office went to the complex, where a tourism operator told them that the people who had occupied the condo were asked to vacate because the owners were coming to stay over Christmas, the report said. The Couches then moved to an apartment, and the agents set up a surveillance operation in the surrounding streets.

On Monday evening, two people matching the Couches’ description were spotted and intercepted. The police report said that they behaved evasively, claimed to be carrying no IDs, gave inconsistent stories about their names and failed to provide proof of their legal migratory status in Mexico.

So their master plan for escape was…

  1. Go to Mexico.
  2. Hide out in a tourist resort town teeming with Americans who would be familiar with the case.
  3. Dye hair an impossible shade of black. (Ethan only.)
  4. Don’t bother to come up with a cover story or some sort of false documents to explain their presence if challenged.
  5. TBD
  6. Freedom!

Their post-arrest strategy was only marginally better. Tonya’s attempt at fighting extradition was based on a claim that police stole her dog and invalidated her arrest, which is as weak of an argument as “affluenza.” Unfortunately for Tonya, authorities in Mexico are a lot less gullible than was the judge who presided over Ethan’s quadruple-homicide case. CBS-DFW reports that the same authorities are treating Ethan’s extradition fight more seriously, however, considering his status as an “international fugitive.” (Question: why wouldn’t that tag apply to Tonya?) It could take weeks or months for Ethan’s case to be resolved, but his eventual extradition appears to be just a matter of time. And in the meanwhile, Ethan Couch gets to live in a Mexican prison rather than a Texas juvenile facility, where his case will be initially handled on his return to the US.

In the meantime, let’s hope that the media stays focused on the truly pressing question in all of this red tape … what happened to the dog? Sounds like it’s worth more than both Couches put together.

Update: Commenters note that Mexico seems to have deported Tonya Couch on their own rather than the US winning her extradition, but the US had applied for her extradition, too. Let’s call it a draw and say that both nations got exactly what they wanted with Affluenza Mom. I’ve changed it to emphasize Mexico’s actions.


Update: Again, first paragraph: “first both” should have been “first put both.” I’ve fixed it.

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