ATTORNEY

Magistrate Orders Mental Exam for Tonya Couch

A Tarrant County judge has ordered Tonya Couch to get a mental exam, saying in a court order filed Friday there's "reasonable cause" to believe she has a mental illness or is "a person with a mental retardation."

Couch, 48, made an initial court appearance Friday in Fort Worth on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon. She did not enter a plea because her attorney was not present for the arraignment.

The order for Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County (MHMRTC) to examine Couch's mental health came from a magistrate court, not Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant, who is the judge in Couch's criminal case.

Couch is jailed on a $1 million bond. Meanwhile, her son, 18-year-old Ethan Couch, remains in custody of Mexican authorities.

The mother of a fugitive teen who used an “affluenza” defense after killing four people in a drunken crash has been arraigned in Tarrant County Friday morning on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon.

In an arrest affidavit released Friday, investigators said Tonya Couch withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account on Dec. 3, and neither she nor Ethan used their cell phones from that day forward.

The mother and son were suspected of fleeing Texas together in early December as prosecutors investigated whether the teenager had violated probation. They were arrested at an apartment complex in Puerto Vallarta late last month.

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, including passengers in his pickup truck. He pleaded guilty in juvenile court to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury and was sentenced to 10 years' probation.

The next hearing is set for Monday afternoon, during which time Tonya Couch's attorneys will ask for Ethan Couch's probation records.

 
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