'American Idol' Judges Sob Through Tribute to Willie Spence Following His Sudden Death

American Idol has returned, and Sunday night's auditions episode featured a tribute to late contestant Willie Spence that has the judges sobbing. In October, Spence passed away tragically in a car accident, sending a shockwave of sadness through everyone involved with the singing competition series. One person who was deeply impacted by Spence's death was former American Idol contestant Kya Monee who sang a duet with Spence before being cut during Hollywood Week.

This week, Monee' returned to audition again, telling judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan that Spence had encouraged her to try out prior to his death. "Three days before he passed, Willie was telling me, 'You have to go back. You have to chase your dreams,'" she shared, then adding that Spence had planned to join her at the audition for support. "It's just very hard to not have that support anymore." She then performed a beautiful rendition of "I'm Here," from the film The Color Purple, which had the judges tearing up and all voting to send her on in the competition.

Spence competed on Season 19 of American Idol and came in as runner-up to Chayce Beckham. On Wednesday, Oct. 12 it was reported that Spence died in a car accident the previous day. In a Facebook post, local news outlet DouglasNow — based in Spence's home city of Douglas, Georgia — shared a photo of the singer, and revealed the tragic news. "DouglasNow has learned that Douglas native and American Idol Season 19 runner-up Willie Spence, 23, has passed away due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tennessee," the outlet stated.

The statement continued, "We have no further details at this time. We extend our condolences to Willie's family, friends, and fans. He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world. He will be missed."

Over on Instagram, Beckham shared some photos and videos of Spence, writing in the caption, "It's hard to find the words to say here, other than I loved Willie very much. He was a good sweet soul, and a warm beam of light in a cold and dark world that needed him so much. When Willie sang I swear it would shake a whole room. I think Willie had a voice that God gave him specifically to spread his message, when Willie sang gospel it could make you cry."

He continued, "Willie also had a laugh that could make you melt, an honest humor you couldn't help but love, and the biggest heart you could imagine all wrapped up into one human. His larger than life energy was infectious and I loved being around him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and fans, who I know he loved so much, and who he held close to his heart. I can't wait to sing with you in Paradise, where I know I'll see you again. Rest In Peace brother."