The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office formally charged a 16-year-old Burleson boy with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault on Wednesday.
Ethan Anthony Couch was the driver of a Ford pickup involved in a June 15 traffic accident that left four dead and several injured.
Couch appeared Wednesday with his parents at the Scott D. Moore Juvenile Justice Center for a detention hearing at which district attorney officials requested that he remain in custody pending trial.
The judge instead released Couch to his parent’s custody but required him to wear an ankle monitor.
The district attorney’s office, according to a Wednesday press release, plans to seek a 20-year sentence for Couch. Pending approval of the district attorney’s request by the grand jury, Couch could serve up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Officials said that no trial date has been set.
Because Couch’s case is pending, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment further on the details of the case.
Couch was allegedly driving westbound on Burleson-Retta Road shortly before midnight on June 15 with seven other passengers in his truck.
Couch’s truck allegedly struck a Mercury Mountaineer, which earlier ran off the road into a culvert because of a blowout. Three people were at the scene standing by the Mercury to assist the driver, Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian.
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, during a July press conference, said that accident investigations indicate that Couch’s truck clipped the rear of Mitchell’s SUV before running into and killing the four individuals.
Killed were Mitchell; Alsbury Baptist Church youth minister Brian Jennings, 43, of Burleson; Hollie Boyles, 52, of Burleson; and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21, of Burleson.
Investigation also shows that Couch was driving 68 to 70 mph in a 40 mph zone and had a blood alcohol level of .24, three times the legal limit, at the time of the crash, Anderson said.
Security camera footage retrieved from the Burleson Walmart captured several of the truck’s occupants shoplifting two cases of beer earlier the same night, Anderson said.
Couch’s truck continued on and struck Jenning’s Chevrolet Silverado, which was parked on the right shoulder of the westbound lane west of Mitchell’s SUV. The impact sent Jenning’s car across both lanes of Burleson-Retta Road causing it to clip an eastbound Volkswagen Beetle.
The Beetle veered off the street before re-entering the roadway and coming to rest. Neither occupant of that car suffered injury. Two boys, ages 12 and 13, sitting in Jenning’s car were transported to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth to be treated for minor injuries.
Couch’s truck then “went airborne,” Anderson said, before flipping upside down and hitting a tree.
Passengers Sergio Molina and Solomon Mohmand, both 15, were thrown from the bed of the truck during the accident.
The civil suit
Molina, a Fort Worth resident, remains hospitalized in a coma, his attorney Bill Berenson said.
Berenson recently filed suit in the 96th Judicial District Court in Tarrant County on behalf of Molina and his parents. The suit names Couch, his parents Fred and Tonya Couch and Cleburne Metal Works LLC d/b/a Cleburne Sheet Metal as defendants.
The suit seeks up to $20 million in damages.
Molina’s medical bills have totaled more than $600,000 and may, should he require constant care, exceed $10 million, Berenson said.
Berenson’s suit alleges that the truck driven by Couch is owned by Cleburne Sheet Metal and that it was “entrusted” to him by his father, who is the president of that company.
The suit alleges that Couch’s driver’s license prohibits him from driving unless accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older and adds that everyone in the truck that night was younger than 21.
The suit also alleges that Couch was not watching the road and may have been texting or using his cellphone at the time of the crash.
Berenson earlier this week said that, as far as he knows, none of the other victims or their families have filed suit against Couch.