'American Idol' Alum Caleb Kennedy Charged After Allegedly Killing Person During DUI Crash

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Caleb Kennedy -- who was an American Idol contestant in 2021 but was forced to bow out in the finals after a controversial video surfaced -- has been arrested and charged in a DUI case that resulted in the death of a man.

A spokesperson for the South Carolina Highway Patrol tells ET, the 17-year-old singer has been charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death. The incident occurred Tuesday at approximately 12:41 p.m. in South Carolina, where authorities allege Kennedy crashed his 2011 Ford pickup into a building, resulting in a fatal injury as a result of the collision.

Caleb Kennedy

Caleb Kennedy's mugshot.

Spartanburg County, South Carolina Detention Center

Authorities allege Kennedy was traveling north on W. Murphy Road in Spartanburg, South Carolina, before crashing into the building. Kennedy, who is from nearby Roebuck, South Carolina, was identified by the South Carolina Highway Patrol as the driver of the truck. According local news station WFF4, the man inside the building was 54-year-ld Larry Duane Parris, who was pronounced dead at the hospital there three hours after the crash.

A spokesperson for the Spartanburg County Detention Center confirmed to ET that Kennedy is currently being held at the facility and his bond was denied by the judge. The crash remains under investigation.

Kennedy, 16 at the time, turned heads during season 19 of American Idol, wowing the judges with his twangy voice. He'd ultimately reach the finals but was forced to leave the show after a Snapchat video surfaced showing him as a 12-year-old seated next to someone wearing what appeared to be a white Ku Klux Klan-style pointed hood over his face.

Kennedy addressed the controversy in a statement he posted to Instagram, where he also announced his American Idol exit.

"Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol. There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way," Kennedy shared. "I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse."


Caleb Kennedy

Caleb Kennedy on 'American Idol' in 2021.


ET spoke with judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan following the finals, and they shared their thoughts about Kennedy's shocking departure.

"Well, losing great talent is always [hard]... this is our class. This is the class of 2021. So, you know, it was an unfortunate situation," Richie shared. "We had to ride with what's happening with ABC, and ,you know, that's where we play. So, you know, we wish him all the best, but that was just one of those unfortunate things that happens along the way of life."

"You know, we love these kids, we love every aspect of their growth and all of this, but it's certainly devastating news when we hear about this," Bryan added. "But like we said, our thoughts will be with him as he grows as an artist."


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