Man pleads guilty in I-26 crash that killed 72-year-old woman

McCauley, Caperton

A 20-year-old man who drove the wrong way on Interstate 26 before a wreck that killed a 72-year-old security guard pleaded guilty this afternoon and asked to be sent to jail while he awaits sentencing.

Samuel McCauley, 19 at the time of the July 2011 crash, had just graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities two months earlier. His lawyer, Capers Barr, said that McCauley had been reminiscing with high school friends on a docked sailboat the night of the wreck and that the teens had agreed not to drink and drive.

Eleanor Caperton, meanwhile, headed home to Ladson from her night shift at a downtown office. Their two vehicles collided near where the interstate merges with the Crosstown.

Caperton died at Medical University Hospital, and investigators arrested McCauley on charges of felony DUI and reckless homicide.

Barr said his client can’t remember anything between his time on the boat and waking up in a hospital room. McCauley’s blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit by two and a half times, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Lawyers for both sides described McCauley’s suicidal behavior, upon learning what happened. He begged officers at the hospital to kill him, according to attorneys.

McCauley faces a maximum of 35 years in prison, if convicted on both charges. He turned to apologize to Caperton’s family, while people sitting on both sides of the aisle sobbed.

“No one deserves to die the way I killed Eleanor Caperton,” McCauley said. “I wish it was me that had died that night, but I can’t change what happened... I am and will forever be sorry.”

The judge said he normally allows people who plead guilty to remain on release until sentencing but, at McCauley’s request, deputies took him away.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.