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Rich teen who got probation for killing four people arrested in Mexico

Ethan Couch
Ethan Couch

A Texas teenager serving probation for killing four people in a drink-driving crash after invoking an "affluenza" defence is in custody in Mexico, weeks after he and his mother disappeared, authorities said.

Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutors' office said in a statement that its agents had been working with American authorities via the US consulate in Guadalajara since December 26 to track down and capture 18-year old Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch.

The two were located and detained on Monday evening in a beachside neighbourhood of the Pacific Coast resort city of Puerto Vallarta, the office said.

After their detention, they were handed over to Mexican immigration authorities for deportation, the statement said.

In June 2013, when he was aged 16, Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding on a dark two-lane road when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in Couch's pickup truck.

Ethan Couch

Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury.

Because of his age, he was not certified as an adult for trial and a judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years' probation and a stint in a rehabilitation centre.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, Couch's lawyers relied on a defence expert who argued that Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility - a condition the expert termed "affluenza".

The condition is not recognised as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread ridicule.

Authorities began searching for Couch and his mother after he failed to keep a mandatory appointment with his probation officer on December 10, leading authorities to issue the juvenile equivalent of an arrest warrant for him.

The Tarrant County district attorney's office also told local media outlets that the two had been taken into custody.

Tarrant County sheriff Dee Anderson has said he believes the two fled in late November after a video surfaced that appears to show Couch at a party where people were drinking.

If found to be drinking, Couch's probation could be revoked and he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

A spokesman for the Tarrant County sheriff's department has declined to say whether Tonya Couch is facing any charges.

There was no immediate comment from the US Marshals Service, which had issued a wanted poster promising a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Couch's whereabouts and capture.

Mr Anderson was among those critical of the judge's decision not to incarcerate Couch in the drink-driving case.

The sheriff said that the teenager has never expressed remorse for his actions and that his case sparked more outrage than any other he has encountered in his law enforcement career.