Former ‘American Idol’ Contestant Charged With DUI After Fatal Crash

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Caleb Kennedy, a top-five contestant on season 19 of ABC‘s “American Idol,” has been arrested and charged with a DUI in a crash that left one person dead, according to ABC 4 News Charleston.

The outlet reported that South Carolina Highway Patrol arrested Kennedy, who is 17 years old, on Tuesday, February 8, 2022, and charged him with “felony driving under the influence resulting in death” in Pacolet, South Carolina.

WSPA reported that the crash occurred at around 12:33 p.m. and involved a 2011 Ford pickup being driven into a building behind a home, police say by Kennedy.

According to the outlet, Kennedy told police after the crash that he had taken a hit of a marijuana vape pen before driving. Officials said in court that Kennedy “may have had a bad reaction to a mixture of his prescribed medication and the vape,” WSPA reported.

Defense lawyer Ryan Beasley told the court that “one thing they do know is that alcohol was not involved” and that Kennedy was “very scared and very sorry,” WSPA reported. “He has never been in trouble. I mean he was holding the victim in his arms when the police got there. He was distraught,” Beasley told the court, according to the outlet. “Something weird happened and we are going to figure it out.”

Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office records show that Kennedy was booked into the Spartanburg County Detention Center just before 7:30 p.m. and remained there following his first court appearance on February 9, where he was denied bond. He’s set to appear back in court on April 14, WSPA reported.


The Victim & His Family Were ‘Going About Their Normal Day’

caleb kennedy

Spartanburg County Sheriff’s OfficeCaleb Kennedy.

According to WSPA News, the person who was inside the building sustained injuries and was hospitalized. The man, who was later identified as 54-year-old Larry Duane Parris, died at the hospital.

TMZ also reported the news of Kennedy’s arrest on February 8, 2022. The outlet posted photos of the crash site that appear to show a pickup truck wedged into the small workshop. The photos that appear to show the outside of the building show a broken garage door and some damage to other parts of the building as well.

Parris “was outside of the building on his property” when the crash occurred and “was run over and pushed into the building,” investigators told WSPA. In court on February 9 his family asked the judge to deny bond, the outlet reported. A representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving who spoke on the family’s behalf told the court, “The family is going through an incredibly challenging time right now. … All they were doing was going about their normal day,” according to WSPA.


Kennedy Left ‘American Idol’ Following Controversy

Kennedy made the top five of the competition on season 19 of “American Idol,” which aired in 2021. He withdrew from the competition after a video surfaced of him sitting next to someone in a KKK-style hood surfaced, according to TMZ.

His mother told the Herald-Journal in May 2021 that the video was taken when Kennedy was 12 years old.

Following his exit, Kennedy took to social media to apologize to fans.

“Hey y’all, this gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on ‘American Idol,’” he wrote on May 12. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not to be taken in that way.”

He added, “I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down. I’ll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me.”

Kennedy later said that he felt as though “American Idol” was not what he wanted it to be.

In an interview with the Herald-Journal published June 24, 2021, Kennedy talked about his “American Idol” journey and opened up about the pressure he felt.

“You think it’s all going to be fun, and a lot of it is, but it will slap you in the face really quickly,” Kennedy told the outlet. “I wasn’t ready for it.”

He later added, “On ‘Idol,’ that wasn’t me. That world is so different. Now that I’m home, I try to be me, but I’m also scared of someone videoing me when I go to Academy or Wal-Mart. You have to worry about things like that now.”

“American Idol” returns on February 27, 2022, at 8 p.m. Eastern time on ABC.

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