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Investigators: HCS teacher responsible for deadly crash had three previous DUI arrests

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 8:30 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2021 at 12:51 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A teacher with Horry County Schools has been arrested after an alleged drunk driving crash left a woman dead in the Carolina Forest area.

Records from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division obtained by WMBF News on Wednesday show it’s his fourth arrest for DUI.

Troopers said Michael Oerther, 52, is charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death.

HCS spokesperson Lisa Bourcier confirmed Oerther is a math teacher at Ocean Bay Middle School. He was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday. Bourcier could not confirm if he had been placed on any type of leave from HCS after the previous arrests.

According to Lance Cpl. Tyler Tidwell with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, Oerther was driving a Jeep Wrangler when he crashed into the back of a Honda Civic that was stopped at Carolina Forest Boulevard and Stafford Drive Monday night.

There were three people in the Honda Civic. Troopers said the driver and front passenger were taken to the hospital, while the back seat passenger was killed in the accident.

Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard later identified the victim as Leza Watts, 27, of Carolina Forest.

Watts was a student at Horry Georgetown Technical College. Her professor, Becky Hubbard, said Watts was kind and driven, and she had already completed a degree in culinary arts for baking and pastry work. Her focus then turned to teacher education.

“She always felt called to be a teacher, and so she was pursuing her degree in teacher education, she actually only had one semester left,” Hubbard said.

Documents and court records obtained by WMBF News delved deeper into Oerther’s arrest history.

In March 2005, he was arrested by troopers for first-offense driving under the influence. Records indicate he was found guilty in traffic court. He was arrested on the same charge in April 2009, but pleaded guilty in traffic court.

In May 2011, Oerther was arrested by the Myrtle Beach Police Department for second-offense driving under the influence. However, court records say he was not indicted and the charge was dismissed.

The 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said this was due to insufficient evidence.

“He was convicted of two out of the three,” said 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson. “Unfortunately now we’re gonna have to deal with a very elevated 4th. Which is 1-25 years with a felony DUI with death.”

Online records show Oerther was released from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center to home detention under a $40,000 bond Wednesday afternoon.

Stay with WMBF News for updates.

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