14th Circuit Solicitor's Office​

Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties​

Drunken driver who killed Bluffton college student sentenced to prison

RIDGELAND, SC (Dec. 7, 2017) – A 28-year-old Ridgeland man charged with felony DUI following a head-on collision that killed a Bluffton college student has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Christopher Lenning pleaded guilty Wednesday at the Jasper County Courthouse to felony hit and run with death, and felony DUI resulting in death. At about 8 p.m. Jan. 6, 2017, Lenning was traveling eastbound on S.C. 462 near Dawson Landing Road when he steered his pickup across the centerline and struck a westbound vehicle driven by 18-year-old Caleb Whiteleather of Bluffton.

The impact caused Whiteleather’s car to spin around, eventually coming to rest in a ditch on the side of the road. Lenning left the scene, where Whiteleather died. Whiteleather had left his parents’ Bluffton home 35 minutes before the wreck. A freshman at Winthrop University, he was headed back to school following the holiday break.

“The defendant had likely been drinking for at least four hours when the collision occurred,” said Administrative Solicitor Patrick Hall. “When officers finally found Mr. Lenning, he had a blood alcohol content of .113. That’s more than one-and-half times the legal limit.”

Lenning’s prior criminal record includes a 2008 conviction of six counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and DUI.

Circuit Court Judge Brooks P. Goldsmith handed down Wednesday’s sentence.