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A hotel employee at the Los Tules resort in Puerto Vallarta, where “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch stayed five nights with his mother, said the 18-year-old came back one night flanked by a strip club manager and a waiter because he had not paid the bar tab.
The hotel employee, Marina Meza, told the Dallas Morning News that she was requested to wake up the mother, Tonya Couch, in the middle of the night. When she did, Meza said, the woman came downstairs to the lobby and readily covered the pending bill.
Tonya Couch was extradited to the U.S. on Thursday while a Mexican court granted Ethan temporary stay against deportation. He is being held at a Mexico City immigration detention center.
According to the hotel employee, the Couches never completed the registration paperwork, which required showing ID, and paid the nightly $80 fee in cash.
"They seemed like normal people, perhaps a bit too private," Meza, 46, told the Morning News. "But that's something you get used to: the idea that some people may be running from their past."
Meza also said the boy spent most of his time in the room, while the mother went out for runs along the Pacific Ocean and walked their dog every evening.
The hotel employee said she didn’t recognize the Texan fugitives until after they had checked out, when a co-worker showed her a newspaper photograph of the two.
Meza said they left suddenly on Christmas Eve.
“I knew them only as 'the Texans' because that’s the only thing they’d tell me when I asked for their names: ‘We’re from Texas,’” she told the Morning News.
Mother and son purportedly fled to Mexico in November as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his 10 years' probation.
Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that Couch's wealthy parents had 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 ridicule.
Lawyers for the teen may be attempting to stall his deportation to the United States by claiming that Mexican authorities violated his human rights, according to legal experts.
Ethan Couch won a delay in his deportation based on a constitutional appeal in Mexico that could lead to a trial process that could last weeks or even months.
Any flaw in the process of his detention by Mexican immigration authorities can be considered a violation of due process and of his human rights, San Antonio attorney Javier Lopez de Obeso, who is licensed to practice in Mexico, said Thursday.
"If the immigration authorities didn't act properly, he can find a way to stay in Mexico for more time," said Lopez.
With reporting by the Associated Press.