Caleb Kennedy; Photo Courtesy of FOX Carolina News/YouTube
Caleb Kennedy; Photo Courtesy of FOX Carolina News/YouTube

17-Year-Old ‘American Idol’ Alum Caleb Kennedy Denied Bond In Fatal DUI Case, Apologizes Through Attorney

On Wednesday (Feb. 9), Bond was denied for former American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy, who was arrested earlier this week after allegedly killing a Pacolet man and being charged with one count of felony DUI resulting in death

On Tuesday (Feb. 8) at around 12:40 pm on West Murph Road in Spartanburg County, Kennedy reportedly drove his 2011 Ford pickup down a private driveway striking 54-year-old Larry Duane Parris inside his garage, where Parris worked to repair boats. When the victim’s family came outside, Kennedy was holding him, crying and apologizing while on the phone with police and trying to resuscitate him.

According to 7th Circuit Solicitor, Barry Barnette, the momentum of Kennedy collision “carried Parris underneath the truck, which struck the garage and came to rest.” Parris was later pronounced dead at Spartanburg Medical Center.

During Kennedy’s bond hearing on Wednesday morning (Feb. 9), which was publicly streamed on YouTube by FOX Carolina News, the 17-year-old singer’s bond was denied by Magistrate Daniel Burns after Parris’ cousin, Tammy Pridmore asked for him to deny him bond.

“I want to ask that bond be denied…” Pridmore asked Burns with tears in her eyes. “He plowed down one of the best people you would ever meet, at home, minding his own business. He took away a husband, son, daddy, a brother and a best friend, he can’t come back.”

Kennedy’s attorney Ryan Beasley told Burns that despite other reports, the Idol alum was actually on his way to see his girlfriend in Union at the time of the “terrible, terrible accident.” He also claimed that Kennedy was not drinking, however, he reportedly took one hit of a vape pen from a friend during a stop at a local Walmart.

It was reported by Beasley that Kennedy did not know what was inside the vape pen, however his defense argues that he thinks the substance in the pen may’ve caused a “bad reaction” to the medication that Kennedy takes, which he was prescribed by a Doctor, impairing his ability to drive the Ford truck. The arrest warrant cites Marijuana as the substance in his system at the time of the collision. 

Despite Beasley’s argument that Kennedy is just a teenager in high school with “no record” or “flight risk” and that he was apologetic and repentant, Burns made the decision to deny Kennedy’s bond.

“As you can see here, you can tell he is absolutely so sorry for what had happened,” Beasley said. “I mean, you can hear him on the 911 tape, he was holding the defendant telling him that he was sorry.

“Based on the facts of the case, and what I’m going to do here this morning Mr. Kennedy, I am not going to set your bond this morning. I am going to let a circuit court Judge set your bond,” Burns declared, before setting his initial court appearance for Thursday, April 14, at 9 a.m. in general sessions court. 

Kennedy currently remains at the Spartan County Detention Center and will face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of 10,100 to $25,100, if convicted.

Several of Kennedy’s family member watch the bond hearing from behind a tinted window in a small courtroom at the Spartanburg County Detention Center, while a half-dozen of Parris’ family members attended in the room of the hearing.

Caleb Kennedy; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC
Caleb Kennedy; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABCCALEB KENNEDY

Kennedy abruptly exited American Idol before the Top 5 after a video showing him with someone who appears to be wearing a hood similar to that of the Ku Klux Klan surfaced online.

He revealed he was leaving Idol in a letter to fans on social media.

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

Kennedy was 12 when the video was filmed and his mother later shared a statement about the clip, telling fans it had “nothing to do with the “Ku Klux Klan.”

The singer/songwriter later opened up about his time on Idol and admitted he was not “ready for it.”

“There’s no way to emotionally prepare for Idol,”  he told the Spartanburg Herald Journal in June of 2021. “Because no one is ready for it, no matter how you prepare. But I don’t regret it, and I did love it.”

After taking a break from the spotlight, Kennedy returned in September with the new track, “Raised on Dirt,” which was originally planned to release during his time on American Idol.

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