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Hearing delayed in fatal DUI case

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Michael Couch returned to jail Friday with no attorney, the same bond and without the evidentiary hearing that he anticipated.

The 43-year-old stands charged with felony driving under the influence causing death, a felony related to this month's vehicle crash that killed Deborah Lynn Rakes of Kenova. The accident occurred about 1 p.m. March 17 on 5th Street Hill in Huntington.

At his arraignment last week, Couch said he would retain an attorney, but appeared Friday with no such representation. Court officials then determined he qualified for public assistance, but Magistrate Dan Goheen was unable to find a court-appointed attorney willing to take the case.

Couch then agreed to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arrest, which provided court officials additional time to find a willing attorney. Goheen tentatively set the new date for April 8. His bond is $30,000, full cash.

Members from Couch's family and that of the victim's attended Friday's hearing. The suspect's wife, Jeanette Couch, defended her husband's character after the proceedings and said he had not been drinking at the time of the crash.

The arrest warrant states an on-scene paramedic noticed Couch's breath smelled of alcohol and told police he appeared intoxicated. It further states the medic asked Couch how much he had to drink, to which he replied "a couple." Information about Couch's alleged, blood-alcohol content has not been disclosed.

State records indicate Couch hasn't had a valid driver's license since July 30, 1996. This month's crash marked his fifth drunken driving arrest since late 1997, four of which stemmed from vehicle accidents.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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