Ethan Couch, the teen who claimed a defense of “affluenza” after a drunken truck wreck left four dead and nine injured, was released from prison. But what about the victims in the case?
The night that Ethan Couch drove off from a Walmart parking lot, after a he was already at a party with heavy drinking, changed the lives of a number of people. This is the story of those who were killed, and those who were left behind.
Ethan Couch was 16 years old when he stole two cases of beer and drove down the roads of Fort Worth, Texas. The truck was a red 2012 Ford F-350 owned by his father’s company. In the truck were seven of Couch’s friends. Some were in the cab, others were in the bed of the truck, not one was wearing a seatbelt.
|About Ethan Couch|
|Known As||Affluenza Teen|
|Birth||April 11, 1997 Tarrant County, Texas|
|Parents||Tonya Couch, Fred Couch|
|Alumni||Anderson Private School|
On the side of the road was Breanna Mitchell, Hollie Boyles, her daughter Shelby, and Brian Jennings, a local youth pastor. Mitchell’s SUV stalled and the others came over to help her.
Couch’s car was going 70 mph when it plowed into Mitchell’s SUV, and then into Jennings’ car, which was sent into oncoming traffic, hitting a Volkswagen Beetle.
The Dead and the Injured
Mitchell, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and Jennings were killed at the scene. Most of the kids in Couch’s truck were injured. They were thrown from the truck with wounds that would heal. One, however, was not so lucky. Sergio Molina was thrown from the back of the truck and sustained a brain injury that resulted in complete paralysis that affects him to this day.
Couch only appeared to have a scratch on his back and blood on his shirt.
Two other people, Lucas McConnell and Isaiah McLaughlin, who were in Jennings’ car when Couch crashed into them survived.
Courts and Lawsuits
Eventually, Couch had his day in court, and his defense team presented the idea of “affluenza.” They argued that Couch was raised in such a life of wealth and privilege that he did not understand how right and wrong applied to him. Despite being responsible for the deaths of four people, the severe injury of another, and a blood alcohol level three times over the limit, Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation.
Many of the families felt that justice was not served. To try and get some sense of justice, they sued Couch, his father, and his father’s company (who owned the truck). In total, five lawsuits were filed by:
- Eric and Marguerite Boyles, Hollie Boyles’ husband and other daughter, filed on behalf of Hollie and Shelby Boyles.
- Breanna Mitchell’s mother Marla Mitchell.
- Shaunna Jennings, Brian Jennings’s wife.
- Kevin and Alesia McConnell, parents of Lucas McConnell.
- Timothy and Priscilla McLaughlin, parents of Isaiah McLaughlin, who was another passenger in Jennings’ vehicle
- Maria Lemus and Jesus Molina, parents of passenger Sergio Molina
Eventually, all of the lawsuits were settled out of court, the McConnell’s being the last to settle.
Those Left Behind
Since the settlement, nothing much has been heard from the victims of the crash. In the case of Sergio Molina, nothing will be heard from him again, despite his being among the living.
Molina’s brain injuries were incredibly severe as were his health care costs. Today, he cannot speak nor move. According to his family, he can communicate with them through blinks. One blink for yes, two for no.
As for Ethan Couch, while he was in jail, he had a number of visits from an unlikely person, Tim Williams, the best friend of Brian Jennings. Williams met with Couch a number of times while he was incarcerated. Williams did this out of a sense of “mentoring and ministry,” trying to not only forgive Couch, but to help him on to a better path when he is released.
Willams said of Couch to CBS News, “I’ve seen a lot of the negative characteristics that we’ve seen on TV mostly go away… mostly diminish. I’ve seen him clearly own the issues he’s caused. The loss he’s caused.”