'American Idol': Caleb Kennedy Accused of Killing Man in Crash, Charged With DUI

Former American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy was accused of killing a man while driving drunk in South Carolina on Tuesday afternoon. The 17-year-old allegedly drove his truck into a workshop, where a man was injured and later died at a nearby hospital. Kennedy was close to making the American Idol Season 19 finale when he withdrew from the competition because a video of him sitting next to someone who appeared to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood surfaced.

At around 12:33 p.m. Tuesday, a vehicle ran into a workshop located behind a home in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, the Pacolet Fire Department told WSPA-TV. Kennedy was driving a 2011 Ford pickup truck on W. Murph Road when the vehicle was driven onto a private drive, South Carolina Highway Patrol said. The truck then hit the workshop.

A person inside the building was injured and rushed to Spartanburg Medical Center. The person, later identified as 54-year-old Larry Duane Parris, died at the hospital. Kennedy was also treated for injures. The South Carolina Highway Patrol charged Kennedy with felony driving on the influence resulting in death. His bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. He is still in custody.

Kennedy made it to the top five on American Idol in May 2021, but he withdrew from the competition when a controversial video of him surfaced. Although the video appeared to show him sitting next to a person wearing a KKK hood, his mother, Anita Guy, told the Herald-Journal the other person was dressed as a character from the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night. She said the video was filmed when Kennedy was 12.

"I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online," Kennedy's mother said at the time. "This video was taken after Caleb had watched the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night and they were imitating those characters. It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that's how it looks. Caleb doesn't have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races."   

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When Kennedy announced plans to leave Idol, he apologized to fans for his behavior. "There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way," Kennedy wrote. "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."