Former American Idol top five finalist Caleb Kennedy is in jail and charged with felony DUI resulting in a death, In Touch has confirmed with the Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Sheriff’s Department. The singer allegedly crashed his 2011 Ford pickup into a building, killing a man in the process. The incident occurred on February 8 at 12:41 p.m. EST. The aspiring country singer is currently being held without bail.
Caleb, 17, who resides in the town of Roebuck outside of Spartanburg, was traveling down a road when he turned on to a private driveway. According to 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette via the Herald-Journal, Caleb’s truck allegedly hit 54-year-old boat repairman Larry Duane Parris, who was standing in his driveway. The truck ran over Parris and then hit a garage. The victim was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The singer was a 16-year-old high school student when he competed on season 19 of ABC’s American Idol, making it all the way to the top 5. He had wowed all three judges during his audition, when he performed his original song, “Nowhere.” Judge Katy Perry gushed that Caleb had “something real special,” as she, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie gave him a ticket to Hollywood.
Caleb’s twangy voice and potential talent as a country music star took him far in the competition. But an old Snapchat video surfaced showing a then-12-year-old Caleb seated next to someone appearing to wear a pointed white Ku Klux Klan-style hood. On May 12, 2021, he apologized for the video and revealed he was immediately leaving American Idol, despite making it to the top 5.
“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” Caleb tweeted. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in any way. 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,” the teen continued. “I’ll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me. I’m so sorry! I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect!”
Caleb’s mother, Anita, came out in her son’s defense, telling the Herald-Journal, “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online. This video was taken after Caleb had watched the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night and they were imitating those characters.” She added, “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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