Texas teenager Ethan Couch and his mother recently made national headlines when they were found hiding in a condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after an intense international manhunt.
Ethan, you may remember, was the young “man” who was speeding drunk down a rural road with several friends in his pickup truck a couple of years ago. He eventually plowed into and killed four pedestrians. Two of his friends were also critically injured in the crash. One is still wheelchair-bound with severe brain damage.
Ethan was sentenced to ten years probation after a psychologist testified that he was a product of “affluenza” – a syndrome that essentially prevents rich people from realizing that bad behavior has actual real-life consequences. His probation prohibited any use of drugs or alcohol. When a video of him drinking and playing beer pong at a party surfaced, he and his mother reportedly threw a farewell party. They then took off with tens of thousands of dollars in cash and headed to Mexico.
When their offspring cause them trouble, these parents try to buy their way out of whatever inconvenience their child has created.
Southern California, where I live, is awash in cases like Ethan’s. Affluenza runs rampant here in Orange County. In many cases, mom and dad are completely caught up in their own lives. They’re off chasing money, career, drugs, sexual excitement… giving very little care or direction to the children they have borne. When their offspring cause them trouble, these parents try to buy their way out of whatever inconvenience their child has created.
I’m not even surprised that an affluent mother in Dallas actually thought it was a good idea to flee with her kid out of the country. This is just another face of affluenza. I think for most families, an accident like this would serve as a turning point. Would Ethan’s parents have taken it as a wakeup call? Might they have thought about doings things a little differently going forward? Would they not covet this golden opportunity – especially after Ethan was given the break of a lifetime by managing to avoid jail time? Wishful thinking on my part but especially the court, attorneys, and the judicial system. Was it the parent’s warped thinking that got Nathan into the situation in the first place?
During my investigative career, I have witnessed many teenagers and young adults who enjoyed the “privileged life.” Most do not kill people. Very few have a judge that buys an “affluenza” type defense. The judge in this matter bears a tremendous amount of responsibility buying into the laughable defense of “affluenza.” Did the judge ever ask himself, if the age of reason starts at about age 7-8, when does it start for Ethan? Even the attorneys in this case often seem embarrassed by the fact their defense actually worked.
I always ask the parent, “What are you going to do when I bring him or her back?” There needs to be behavioral modification on everybody’s part.
I have extensive experience tracking runaway teens. When I take this type of case, I always ask the parent, “What are you going to do when I bring him or her back?” There needs to be behavioral modification on everybody’s part.
I’m not a big fan of “boot camps” where kids are dumped in the wilderness to determine if they can withstand freezing temperatures. I’m also not in favor of a “scared straight” or “military-type” program for thirty plus days to break their spirit like they’re a wild horse.
I am a fan of 1) rehab programs when they’re appropriate, 2) individual and family counseling, 3) fresh starts and 4) more accountability on everyone’s behalf. This type of environment would have been far more appropriate for Ethan than ten years of probation. It certainly would made the parents engage in some severely needed counseling and guidance for themselves and their son.
A few clients have told me to call back at a more convenient time when I phoned… even to tell them that I’d located their child.
That would be the ideal in these type of cases, but reality doesn’t always live up to what I believe would be minimal expectations. More than a few clients have told me to call back at a more convenient time when I phoned them with an update, or even to tell them that I’d located their child. They offer lame excuses that they are shopping the half-yearly sale at Nordstrom or that they just received a coveted tee time at their local golf course.
They want me to deal with it. They expect me to work miracles.
Here’s what I tell them: “I am a private investigator, and I am really good at what I do. Finding your child is the easy part. What’s impossible is undoing all the damage you have done over the past 18 years in a matter of days.”
Often the parents need more guidance than the minors I have found living in the local park with a needle in their arm.
Next week: The Trouble With Teenage Girls: Texting, sexting, and sending nude photos.