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Ethan Couch, mother to return to the U.S. on Wednesday, Mexican officials say

Kelly Wright reports from Washington, D.C.

 

A Mexican immigration official says Ethan Couch and his mother Tonya Couch will be returning to the United States on Wednesday.

The Texas woman and her son, a teen known for invoking an "affluenza" defense after a deadly drunken driving wreck, will have to wait one more day because there were no seats available on commercial flights to allow a Tuesday return, the AP reported.

The official said Couch and his mother will stay at immigration facilities in Jalisco's state capital, Guadalajara, where they will be given food and rooms with beds. The two were detained Monday in the Pacific Coast resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Couch, now 18, was placed on juvenile probation after a 2013 wreck that killed four people when he was driving under the influence of alcohol. During the sentencing phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition the expert termed "affluenza." The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread ridicule.

Officials said Tuesday that Couch and his mother held a sort of farewell party before fleeing his probation, driving to the Mexican border and trying to disguise themselves.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said an arrest warrant would be issued for Couch's mother as well, on charges of hindering an apprehension. A prosecutor says that during a hearing next month they plan to ask a judge to transfer Ethan Couch's case to adult court.

Couch's attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn, said in a statement they won't comment on the case until they speak with their client, which likely won't happen before Couch reaches the U.S.

Ricardo Ariel Vera, the representative of Mexico's immigration institute in the western state of Jalisco, said the mother and son were being held at immigration offices in the state capital, Guadalajara, and would be returned to the United States aboard a commercial flight to Houston sometime Tuesday.

"They are going to be sent back to their country, given that they were in Mexico improperly," Ariel Vera said. "They would have had to enter, for example, as tourists, but they entered without registering."

Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutors' office said its agents had been working with American authorities since Dec. 26 to track down and capture Couch and his mother.

They were found in a dowdy section of Puerto Vallarta's old town, far from the glitzy resorts, golf courses and high-rise hotels of the city's newer section. The street corner where they were found is dotted with a small sandwich shop, a taco stand, and a mom-and-pop corner store. A playground and a day-care center with a fence topped with razor wire stand nearby.

Couch was apparently trying to lie low; a photo distributed by the Jalisco state prosecutor's office show him in detention with his blond hair dyed black and his normally blondish beard a light brown.

Authorities had begun searching for the pair after Ethan Couch failed to keep a mandatory appointment with his probation officer on Dec. 10, leading authorities to issue the juvenile equivalent of an arrest warrant for him.

The U.S. Marshals Service had issued a wanted poster promising a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Ethan Couch's whereabouts and capture.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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