Tim Williams was beyond devastated when his best friend was killed by ‘affluenza teen’ Ethan Couch in a drunken crash. He and Brian Jennings had known each other since elementary school – each had been the best man at the other’s wedding and both had found their way into the church.
Williams had every reason to hate the 16-year-old who was three times over the legal blood/alcohol level when he mowed down Jennings and three others after a booze-filled evening at the house where his parents had left him to live alone.
But in an act of ultimate forgiveness, Williams, a chaplain in the court system in Fort Worth, Texas, decided instead to forgive and started visiting Couch weekly in prison.
Now he is about to publish a book about his relationship with Couch with the teen he dubbed ‘one of the most hated men in America.’
DailyMail.com has exclusively obtained a copy of that book, called Affluenza Forgiven.
Ethan Couch, known as the ‘affluenza teen’, killed Brian Jennings and three others when he drunkenly smashed his father’s truck into an SUV in 2013
Tim Williams, who was best friends with Jennings, has now written a book called Affluenza Forgiven about his relationship with Couch and forgiving him
On June 15, 2013, Couch was behind the wheel of his father’s red Ford F-350 pick-up, speeding 70mph down the road from his home in Burleson, Texas, where he had hosted a drunken teenage party and crashed, killing four and injuring nine
Couch, now 23, gained notoriety when an expert witness in his case said he suffered from ‘affluenza.’ Psychologist G. Dick Miller said his millionaire parents had never taught him right from wrong.
Judge Jean Boyd agreed and gave Couch no jail time — merely 10 years’ probation with the condition he went to rehab and stayed away from alcohol.
Affluenza Forgiven, published by Emerge Publishing, is available from October 23 – National Forgiveness Day 2020
But even that was too restrictive for spoiled Ethan. Within two years a picture of him at a beer pong party was posted on Twitter.
His mother Tonya feared he would be locked up, so mom and son fled to Mexico in a bid to escape justice.
It was only after he was arrested in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta and brought back to Texas that the case was transferred to the adult courts and he was given nearly two years in jail.
In his book, Williams tells how he decided to forgive Ethan Couch rather than vent his anger at him. He visited him dozens of times in the Tarrant County Jail and chronicles how Couch refused to accept his forgiveness for more than a year because he thought he was unworthy.
Williams and Jennings had been friends since elementary school — even though Jennings was older by three years. They appeared together in an award-winning hip-hop dance team and had each was best man at the other’s wedding.
At the time of his death, Jennings was happily married with three children.
‘He had so many reasons to live. His untimely death was a blow to me personally and to our entire community,’ Williams writes.
Williams, who works as an energy analyst, said the first time he met Couch in jail he didn’t like him. ‘He was guarded, unapologetic and a bit defensive,’ he writes. Couch’s first words to him were: ”So, who are you and what do you want?”
But he adds: ‘I wasn’t there to like him — but rather to love him with the love of God.’
Breanna Mitchell, 24, was killed alongside three others who had stop to help her when her SUV broke down on the side of the road
Mother and daughter Hollie (left) and Shelby Boyles (right) were also killed in the 2013 crash
Sergio Molina, one of Couch’s passengers, was paralyzed and can now communicate only by blinking
On his second visit Williams said he asked Couch if he was sorry for the carnage he had created.
‘He didn’t reply for nearly a minute, and I thought he was going to tell me to go away and not come back,’ he writes.
‘But finally, he said, ”Of course I’m sorry.”
‘Then why don’t you say so? People think that you’re arrogant and that you don’t care,’ Williams asked.
‘Do you really think anyone wants to hear me say I’m sorry?’ he said, with more than a touch of sarcasm in his voice. ‘Would that really make any difference? They all wish I was dead.’
In another passage, Williams writes: ‘I’ve heard people say that Ethan Couch is an arrogant young man who never showed any remorse for the terrible pain he caused.
‘But that’s never the way he seemed to be to me. In my opinion, Ethan knew exactly what he had done, even though I’m aware that he didn’t always look remorseful in photographs or when he appeared on television.
‘I’m not saying that he completely understood the pain he caused because I don’t think that could be possible.
‘But I never saw him smirking or making light of the situation he found himself in. I believe some people have invented such stories as a means of justifying their own anger. Ethan did a careless, stupid, hurtful thing. And he knew it and was ashamed of it.’
Deputies with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said Couch violated his probation by testing positive for THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana. Williams, a chaplain in the court system in Fort Worth, Texas, has decided to forgive and started visiting Couch weekly in prison
Williams told DailyMail.com that he is still in contact with Couch, who is now working for his father’s sheet metal company
Since Couch was released from jail in April 2018, his family has multiple run-ins with the law. His dad, Frederick, was arrested in September 2019 and his mother, Tonya, was arrested for the third time in April 2019
During one of their jailhouse meetings, Couch told Williams that he had dropped by a friend’s house and the beer pong game was already underway. He said he hadn’t intended to stay but his friends egged him on. He didn’t know one was videotaping him.
‘I wasn’t completely buying his story that his friends had set him up,’ the chaplain writes. ‘But I did take heart in the fact that he was willing to talk openly about the situation. I remember thinking, ”Ethan, I think there’s hope for you yet.”’
After nearly 18 months, Couch stunned Williams by saying out-of-the-blue that he was ready to accept his offer of forgiveness.
It was October 28, 2017, unknown to Couch it was the annual National Forgiveness Day. He said: ‘It just seems like the right time. I just couldn’t do it before and now I can.’
Williams told DailyMail.com that he is still in contact with Couch, who is now working for his father’s sheet metal company.
He said Ethan is still dating pet groomer Hayleigh Shields, who stood by him throughout his time in jail.
Affluenza Forgiven, by Tim Williams, published by Emerge Publishing, is available from October 23 — National Forgiveness Day 2020.
‘AFFLUENZA TEEN’ ETHAN COUCH – THE CASE THAT SHOCKED AMERICA
The stolen Miller Lite was flowing freely as Ethan Couch, then 16, hosted a party for seven friends at his parents’ home in Burleson, Texas, on the evening of June 15, 2013. He and two of those pals had lifted three cases of the beer from a Walmart that afternoon.
Most were drunk — the beer chased by Everclear grain alcohol — when one partygoer, Starr Teague, suddenly realized she needed a tampon.
All eight clambered into a red Ford F-350 pick up registered to Couch’s father’s company to go to a store and stock up with more beer. Couch was at the wheel. Starr sat next to him. Four others were in the cab and two in the bed of the truck.
As Couch barreled down Burleson-Retta Road at 70 mph — the speed limit was 40 — Starr screamed at him to slow down, Tim Williams writes in his book.
‘Ethan laughed at her fear and tried to scare her a little more by playing chicken with an oncoming VW Beetle. Then he drove down the wrong side of the road for a while.’ Up ahead, a few minutes earlier, a tire on Breanna Mitchell’s SUV had blown out and she had careened into a mailbox belonging to Eric and Hollie Boyles.
The Boyles family rushed out to see what had happened. Eric cleared up the broken mailbox and took the pieces back to his garage. Hollie, 52, and 21-year-old daughter Shelby stood with Mitchell consoling her. Youth pastor Brian Jennings, 41, who was driving his son home also stopped to help.
As Jennings and the three women surveyed the damage, Couch’s truck plowed into Mitchell’s Mercury Mountaineer and in turn it smashed into them, killing all four outright. Shelby Boyles was hurled 20 ft. through the air. Sergio Molina, who was in the bed of the F-350 was thrown out and suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a vegetative state, unable to walk or talk.
Couch was found to be three times over the blood-alcohol limit with traces of marijuana and Valium in his bloodstream. He was four years, nine months and 26 days below the legal drinking age.
Couch’s defense focused on his upbringing by his wealthy parents, Fred and Tonya Couch and Judge Jean Boyd bought the argument that Couch suffered from ‘affluenza,’ an inability to tell right from wrong suffered by wealthy people who have been raised to believe their money buys privilege.
Even though she told him ‘Ethan, you are responsible for what you did, not your parents,’ she gave him 10 years’ probation on condition he kept away from alcohol and went to rehab. Prosecutors had called for a 20-year jail term.
An article in D Magazine labeled Fred and Tonya Couch ‘the worst parents ever.’ Williams said Fred later admitted to him that the moniker was apt. ‘You know, we were the worst parents in the world. We’re just sorry that we made all this happen,’ Fred Couch said over breakfast at the Ol’ South Pancake House in Fort Worth.
Two years into his probation, on December 2, 2015, a video of Couch at a beer pong party appeared on Twitter. The poster aimed it at prosecutors. It had the tag line: ‘ya boy ethan couch violating probation. i got more if you want’. There was no evidence that Ethan drank any alcohol at the party.
Terrified her son would end up behind bars, Tonya took matters into her own hand. She withdrew $30,000 from her joint bank account, called her husband to tell him he would never see his son again and headed off to Mexico with Ethan and the family dog.
When they reached Puerto Vallarta they checked into the Los Tules resort. Ethan blew through $2,000 in one night at Harem, a local strip club, where he snorted cocaine.
As the money showed signs of running out, mother and son decided to cut costs by renting a second-floor apartment a few blocks from the beach. They were arrested on December 28. They had ordered Domino’s pizza and a cell phone beep was picked up by authorities.
Tonya was flown back to Los Angeles and held on $1 million bail. After she returned to Texas, that was reduced to $75,000. She has been jailed a number of times since after prohibited substances — including methamphetamine — were found during routine blood tests. Ethan fought extradition for a month before he too agreed to come home.
This time his case was held in adult court. He received the maximum sentence allowed in the circumstances, 180 days for each death, to be served consecutively. He was released from Tarrant County Jail on April 2, 2018 and rearrested in January this year after THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was found in his bloodstream.
He was released after just a day when authorities admitted they could not determine whether it had come from legal CBD oil or illegal marijuana.
Tonya, 53, is still to face justice, nearly five years after spiriting her son out of the country. No court date has been set for a hearing where she will face a charge of hindering the apprehension of a known felon.
She has been in and out of jail since the arrest after failing drug tests and has delayed court proceedings by asking for it to be heard away from her home in Fort Worth because of her notoriety.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense in the case is allowed to comment on why it has taken so long for Tonya Couch facing justice. The judge has slapped a gag order on them preventing them talking.