Former American Idol Finalist Arrested For DUI After Fatal Crash

Though he impressed more than enough American Idol fans and judges to make it into the Final Five during Season 19, the singer Caleb Kennedy saw his TV future implode once he left the competition after a controversial video surfaced online. Now, Kennedy has been involved in a far more unfortunate situation, as he has been arrested following a car crash in South Carolina that left one other person dead.

17-year-old Caleb Kennedy was arrested on Tuesday, February 9, and charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death. Kennedy was said to be driving a 2011 Ford pickup truck in Spartanburg County, and according to the Pacolet Fire Department (via WSPA), the vehicle travelled onto a resident's private driveway and struck a workshop behind a home at 12:33 p.m.

The crash led to the person inside the workshop, later identified as 54-year-old Larry Parris, to suffer injuries needing medical attention. Parris was taken to the Spartanburg Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead, according to South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers. 

Caleb Kennedy was also taken to the hospital to treat injuries, although those weren’t disclosed. At this time, Kennedy is being held in the Spartanburg County Detention Center, and will be awaiting a bond hearing on Wednesday morning. 

The Pacolet Fire District Chief Heath Brown spoke on the rarity of a crash like this, saying:

Mostly just the area that it’s in, it’s off the road, like it is. Because this right here, as you can see, is more like a personal driveway, than it is a road. We don’t have many responses in this area. I’ve been in this business 20 years and this is one of the most unique instances I’ve ever been on with a car versus a building.

The DUI arrest and charges come just nine months after Caleb Kennedy exited American Idol’s finalist rankings. At the time, a video circulated across social media that showed him sitting next to someone wearing what appeared to be a hood commonly associated with the Ku Klux Klan. He dropped out of the competition, and offered an apology in the days immediately afterward. 

A month or so later, he spoke about the Idol experience with a local newspaper, and talked about being afraid of someone recording a video of him while in public. While no concrete explanations were given for what the true context of the video was, his family claimed that the intentions behind the video, taken when Kennedy was 12 years old, were not racially motivated. 

Though Caleb Kennedy’s American Idol journey ended in controversy, it seemed as if he could still make a name for himself as a singer/songwriter in the world of country music. That’s presumably not the case anymore, however, and our thoughts and condolences go to the family and friends of Larry Parris during this time of mourning. 

With Chayce Beckham having gone on to take the win last season following Kennedy’s exit, American Idol Season 20, its fifth to air on ABC, will make its debut on Sunday, February 27, at 8:00 p.m. While waiting to see the next batch of contestants, take a look back at those who have appeared on both Idol and The Voice, and keep our 2022 TV premiere schedule on-hand to see what new and returning shows are popping up soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.