FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – The mother of a fugitive teenager known for using an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck was released from a Texas jail on Tuesday, a day after a judge sharply reduced her $1 million bond for allegedly helping her son flee to Mexico.
Tonya Couch declined to speak with reporters as she was released from the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth. She must wear an electronic ankle GPS monitor and remain at the home of another son, 29-year-old Steven McWilliams, except for appointments with her doctor and lawyer.
Authorities believe she and her 18-year-old son, Ethan Couch, fled the state in November as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation in the 2013 wreck that killed four people.
Both were taken into custody last month in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, after a call for pizza delivery tipped off authorities to their whereabouts.
Tonya Couch is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Ethan Couch is still being held in Mexico as he fights deportation.
During Ethan Couch’s trial, a defense witness said the teen was coddled into a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread ridicule.
A judge on Monday lowered the mother’s bond from $1 million to $75,000. In a tweet late Monday night, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Tonya Couch had posted the bond.
Law enforcement officials said Tonya Couch, 48, and her son fled the U.S. after a video surfaced that appeared to show the teen at a party where people were drinking alcohol. If Ethan Couch also was drinking, it would violate his probation and could lead to jail time.
Law enforcement officials believe the mother and son had a going away party shortly before driving across the border in her pickup truck. They were first tracked to a resort condominium after ordering pizza. They had moved on by the time authorities arrived, but a witness directed police to an apartment in Puerto Vallarta’s old town.
When they were arrested, Ethan Couch appeared to have tried to disguise himself by dying his blond hair black and his beard brown, according to investigators.