BEAUFORT, S.C. (May 20, 2022) – A 47-year-old Bluffton man who killed a 7-year-old boy and his stepmother in a 2019 drunken-driving wreck was sentenced to 18 years in prison Friday.
James Bush Jr. pleaded guilty in July 2021 to two counts of driving under the influence resulting in death. His sentencing was deferred until Friday. Bush also received 10-year sentences for two counts of reckless vehicular homicide and three years for failure to stop for a blue light. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Ronda Brown and Caleb Brown were killed after Bush ran through a traffic signal near the Broad River Bridge in Port Royal and crashed into their 2009 Nissan Maxima.
“James Bush Jr. is solely responsible for the utter devastation of this family,” said Assistant Solicitor Mary Jordan Lempesis, who prosecuted the case. “Today’s sentence brings a measure of justice as prescribed by the laws of our state, but it cannot bring Mrs. Brown and Caleb back. Hopefully, this family can begin to heal wounds that no person and no family should have to endure.”
Police in the city of Beaufort attempted to conduct a traffic stop of Bush after he disregarded a traffic signal, shortly after 9 p.m. on July 7, 2019. However, Bush sped away, and officers broke off the chase after Bush began driving his 1999 Mercury Sable at a dangerous speed.
Several minutes later, Bush ran through a red light at the intersection of Robert Smalls Parkway and Savannah Highway, near the northern end of the Broad River Bridge. He smashed into Brown’s vehicle, causing it to overturn and burst into flames. Ronda Brown was pronounced dead at the scene. Caleb Brown, a passenger in his stepmother’s vehicle, suffered a spine injury and was taken to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where he later died.
Bush was the only occupant of his vehicle. First-responders detected the smell of alcohol and noted Bush appeared intoxicated. He was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where his blood was drawn and shown to have an alcohol content of .13.
Bush’s driver’s license was under suspension at the time of the wreck. His criminal history dates to at least 1996 and includes convictions for larceny, drug possession, breaking and entering, and driving under suspension.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen handed down the sentence.