Horry County Schools district office

An Ocean Bay Middle School math teacher who was charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death has resigned from his position after the state board of education suspended his teaching certificate, according to his personnel file, which shows he has a history of being disciplined for alcohol-related incidents.

The night of Oct. 25,  Michael Oerther, 52, drove his 2017 Jeep Wrangler into a 2012 Honda Civic that was stopped at a light on Carolina Forest Boulevard, killing the Civic’s rear passenger, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Michael Oerther

Michael Oerther, 52, is charged with felony DUI resulting in death. He was still incarcerated as of Wednesday morning. Courtesy, J. Reuben Long Detention Center 

Leza Watts, 27, of Carolina Forest, died in the crash, said Horry County Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard. 

The state board of education suspended Oerther’s educator certificate on Nov. 2, citing Oerther’s “unprofessional conduct and arrest on the felony count of driving under the influence, death resulting.” 

The state board wrote that “After the collision, reporting officers found Mr. Oerther smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes.” Oerther was arrested and then released on home detention, jail records show. He resigned from his teaching position on Nov. 5. 

Oerther has decades of teaching experience, according to his personnel file, and has been teaching at Horry County Schools since 1999, starting as a teacher at Carolina Forest Middle School.

In 2002, he was placed on administrative leave after staff said he showed up drunk to Carolina Forest Middle School’s 8th grade dance. 

“That evening, it appeared to several of our staff members that you were behaving as if you were under the influence of alcohol,” then-Principal Wendell Shealy wrote to him. “In fact, you were asked by a peer to leave the dance, which you did about an hour into the event.” 

Shealy also wrote that Oerther had “admitted to having had ‘a couple of beers’ before arriving at the dance,” but that he denied being inebriated. Oerther was placed on administrative leave without pay on May 23, 2002.

Then in October 2009, Oerther was placed on administrative leave a second time after being charged with driving under the influence. After both the dance incident and 2009 DUI, he was allowed to return.

A State Law Enforcement Division background check shows Oerther has been charged with numerous vehicle-related violations, and multiple DUIs.

He was charged with DUI in 2005, 2009 and 2011, with convictions for the charges in 2009 and 2011, court and SLED records show.  His October felony DUI charge resulting in death is still pending.

In 2005, one of his students at Carolina Forest Middle School nominated him for teacher of the year. As part of his application, Oerther wrote that his decision to enter education was due in part to both his parents’ careers as teachers.

“I can lay my head down at night and know that I am part of the solution,” he wrote, adding later, “For my peers to feel that I am deserving is an incredible honor, which I will carry with me for the rest of my professional career. My greatest accomplishment is that I call myself a teacher.”

Reach Christian by email or through Twitter and Facebook with the handle @ChrisHBoschult. 



Christian is Texas native who welcomes any chance to do a story in the marsh or on the beach. He's a dog park regular and enjoys spending time in the kitchen. He says his margarita recipes are better than anything you'll find in a restaurant.

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