Crime & Courts

USC student was going home for Thanksgiving. After DUI crash, he’ll be buried instead

Family of USC student killed in DUI crash speaks out

From November 2017: The family of David Newell remembers the late University of South Carolina student after a bond hearing for Charles Davenport.
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From November 2017: The family of David Newell remembers the late University of South Carolina student after a bond hearing for Charles Davenport.

David Newell was riding his moped down Rosewood Drive, on his way home from taking an exam at the University of South Carolina, his mother said.

But he never made it home.

On Tuesday, a fellow Gamecock, former USC student Charles Davenport, 24, was charged with felony DUI involving death. Prosecutors said Davenport was driving drunk Nov. 15 when he fatally struck Newell, 22. Davenport had enrolled at USC this semester, but had left school before Wednesday’s fatal collision.

“He was supposed to be coming home tomorrow,” Annette Newell said at a bond court hearing in Columbia on Tuesday. “And instead of embracing him, at noon, we’ll be burying my baby.”

Gamecocks also were mourning Tuesday.

“High risk behavior has resulted in the tragic death of one Gamecock and a life-altering scenario for another,” USC President Harris Pastides said in a statement to the campus. “Two families are irrevocably changed.”

Newell was not the only Gamecock in the family. Both of David Newell’s sisters attended the college before him, even though the Newells live in Maryland. Annette Newell said each of her children was attracted to USC because of the sense of community they found in Columbia.

“I sent three children to the University of South Carolina, but I’m only getting two back,” she said.

Bond set for accused

On Tuesday, Judge Diedra Hightower set a bond of $75,000 for Davenport at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Davenport was “grossly intoxicated” and driving twice the speed limit when he hit Newell’s moped from behind with a pickup truck, Assistant Solicitor Josh Golson told the court.

Newell’s mother had asked the judge to hold Davenport without bond, but instead the former USC student will be allowed to live with his mother in Georgia after posting his bond. The judge also ordered Davenport to wear a GPS monitor and submit to monthly alcohol and drug testing.

Davenport started school at USC this semester and moved to Columbia on Aug. 1, according to details revealed in court on Tuesday. The university said he withdrew from classes in September. Davenport appeared in a jail uniform at Tuesday’s hearing along with an attorney and his parents, but did not speak except to answer questions from the judge.

Annette Newell traveled from the family home near Washington, D.C., to be at her injured son’s bed side, along with his older sister, Brady, and longtime girlfriend, Rachael Thomas. She said they asked he be taken off life support on Thursday so that his date of death wouldn’t coincide with his older sister’s birthday on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s fair that he gets to have a lovely holiday meal ... while we grieve the loss caused by this man,” Annette Newell said.

Thomas, who grew up with David Newell in Maryland, said the two were planning their futures together after school. They maintained their relationship when he left for USC, where both his older sisters had gone, lived together over the summer and had just bought a puppy together.

Just last week, Thomas said, Newell had asked her, “You’re going to say yes when I ask you to marry me, right?”

“People look for a love like that their whole lives,” she said, adding their life together was taken away “before it even began, for one stupid decision.”

Brady Newell said the loss of her brother was all the worse because they had lost high school classmates to a drunken-driving accident.

“We know you don’t drink and drive,” she said. “I don’t know who failed to teach him that lesson.”

‘Love was overwhelming’

Annette Newell said the family is “very fortunate” to receive as much support as they have from their son’s friends in Columbia.

“Everyone here has been reaching out,” she said.

Newell’s roommate and fraternity brother Shane Scully attended Tuesday’s bond hearing for Davenport, alongside other members of the family.

Thomas traveled to Columbia from Maryland after learning he’d been injured and found a welcoming community among the members of his Chi Psi fraternity.

“I stay at their house,” she said. “They treat me just like a sister.”

Brady Newell said, “The community drew us in and the love was overwhelming.

“But that doesn’t surprise us,” she said. “We’re all Gamecocks.”

Cynthia Roldán: @CynthiaRoldan; Bristow Marchant: 803-771-8405, @bristowathome, @buzzatthestate

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