The wife of one of four people killed in a summer crash on Burleson-Retta Road has filed a wrongful death suit against the family of a teen authorities claim caused the crash and the family's Cleburne business.
Shaunna Jennings is suing Fred and Tanya Couch, the parents of Ethan Couch, 16, and Cleburne Metal Works for the death of her husband, Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings, who at about 11:45 p.m. June 15 stopped to aid a stranded motorist.
In a criminal case filed by the Tarrant County district attorney, the teen faces charges that could lead to 20 years imprisonment for his alleged role in the crash that killed Jennings, 43, and Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian, Hollie Boyles, 42, of Burleson, and Shelby Boyles, 21, of Burleson.
The civil filing on behalf of Shaunna Jennings, by attorneys Greg Coontz and W. Burton Baker, alleges the F-350 pickup that Ethan was driving on the night of the accident in the 1500 block of Burleson-Retta Road was a truck owned by Cleburne Metal Works, the family-owned business of Fred and Tanya Couch.
Brian Jennings left behind his wife and their three children: Evan, Abigail and Micah, and is survived by his mother, Janet Henson.
The lawsuit claims the F-350, which struck and killed Brian Jennings, was being operated by Ethan Couch, who was determined to have a 0.24 blood-alcohol content, three times the legal limit.
"...Ethan Couch was allowed to drive the company-owned truck in violation of his restricted drivers license, while intoxicated and traveling at close to 70 mph in a 40 mph zone," said Coontz, a Burleson attorney.
Additionally, Ethan Couch was convicted of being a minor illegally in possession of alcohol when he was 15, the suit claims, and that the teens got the alcohol they consumed that night by stealing it. The suit claims Couch's parents were negligent in allowing their son to drive their company truck and Shaunna Jennings is seeking damages for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and for the loss of her husband and the father of their children.
The lawsuit was filed in the 153rd District Court in Tarrant County.
Burleson-Retta Road is a narrow, two-lane stretch with no lighting in the area where the accident occurred.
Mitchell is believed to have been the operator of the disabled SUV, which Jennings stopped to aid. Both vehicles were struck by the pickup truck.
Mitchell had contacted the Boyles home for help with her SUV, when Jennings arrived and stopped in front of the SUV, according to initial sheriff's office reports. The pickup truck was the only vehicle in motion when it hit both the SUV and Jennings' vehicle, according to reports. An oncoming Volkswagon, carrying 18-year-old driver Ashlyn Evans and 14-year-old Peyton Alan, both of Burleson, was also struck.
Eight teenagers, ranging from ages 15-19, including Couch, were riding in the pickup he was operating, sheriff's reports said.
The civil suit is the second filed as a result of the crash.
The district attorney's criminal case includes four intoxication manslaughter charges and two intoxication assault charges. Each intoxication manslaughter charge is a second-degree felony and carries a punishment of two-20 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Each intoxication assault charge is a third-degree felony and carries a punishment of two-10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Upon conviction, prison terms would be served concurrently, unless charges were tried in separate cases.