SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – No bond was set for former American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy during his initial hearing Wednesday morning. The South Carolina Highway Patrol charged Kennedy with felony driving under the influence resulting in death after he allegedly crashed his truck into a workshop on Tuesday.
Investigators tell Nexstar’s WSPA that 54-year-old Larry Duane Parris was outside of the building on his property when he was hit by Kennedy’s truck. Parris was run over and pushed into the building during the crash.
According to Spartanburg County Solicitor, Barry Barnette, it happened shortly after Kennedy met a friend at a nearby Walmart. Kennedy told law enforcement on scene that he took a hit of a vape pen before getting behind the wheel.
“He took a hit of a vape pen. He took a deep brawl, that’s what he told law enforcement,” said Barnette.
During the bond hearing, officials said he may have had a bad reaction to a mixture of his prescribed medication and the vape.
“He is very, very scared and very sorry for what happened. He doesn’t know what happened,” said Ryan Beasley, the lawyer representing Kennedy. “One thing they do know is that alcohol was not involved.”
The family of Larry Paris was visibly distracted in the courtroom on Wednesday. They asked the judge to deny Kennedy’s bond.
“The family is going through an incredibly challenging time right now. This is something they were not expecting and all they were doing was going about their normal day,” said Kimberly Cockrell with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who spoke on behalf of the family.
Kennedy’s defense lawyer stood by his side, vouching for the 17-year-old Wednesday inside the courtroom.
“You know, I have never been in trouble. I mean he was holding the victim in his arms when the police got there. He was distracted,” said Beasley.
He pleaded for the judge to set a bond but was denied.
“This isn’t a kid that was out partying and drinking alcohol and doing the things that you typically see in a felony DUI case,” said Beasley. “Something weird happened and we are going to figure it out.”
The Spartanburg County court referred Kennedy’s case to General Sessions court due to the charges. His courtroom initial appearance is scheduled for April 14.
Kennedy appeared on Season 19 of “American Idol” in early 2021, advancing into the Top 5. He dropped out of the competition after a circulated video of him sitting next to someone wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood.
Kennedy apologized for the video on Twitter and Instagram, saying “it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.