As the parents of his alleged victim looked on, a 27-year-old Ridgeland man charged with felony DUI in a crash that killed a Bluffton teenager Jan. 9 was denied bond Wednesday morning in the Jasper County Courthouse.
Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner III called Christopher Lenning “a danger to the community” in denying bond.
Caleb Whiteleather, 18, was killed in the crash Jan. 6 and two others, passengers in Lenning’s truck, were injured. Lenning also faces charges of leaving the scene of an accident and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injuries, according to Jasper County court online records.
Assistant 14th Circuit Solicitor Patrick Hall said Lenning fled the scene of the crash that Friday night and allegedly “reeked of alcohol” when law enforcement found him. There were also open containers of alcohol in Lenning’s vehicle, Hall said. Hall also said Lenning is currently wanted in Georgia on a parole violation charge.
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Whiteleather’s parents Christine and Reed Whiteleather, and his maternal grandmother Glenda Tickerhoof were present at the bond hearing along with their attorney Tabor Vaux.
“This cowardly man chose to run away while my child laid in the car with all of his future dreams dead,” Christine Whiteleather said to the court during the hearing.
After the hearing, family members said Caleb Whiteleather was an ambitious young man who worked hard and made good choices. He was attending Winthrop University studying international business and Spanish and was on his way back to start his second semester at the school when he was killed.
“We want people to be aware of what can happen,” Tickerhoof said. “When you make the wrong choices, if affects hundreds of people.”
“The whole Bluffton community is being wonderful,” Christine Whiteleather said. “They’re our family,” Reed Whiteleather said, adding that the family wouldn’t have made it through the tragedy without the support of friends and neighbors.
Lenning was represented by Public Defender Stephen Plexico who asked for a $20,000 bond with a 10 percent option, and said Lenning would agree to comply with any restrictions the court imposed. Plexico said Lenning and his partner recently had their first child.