DEMOTTE | The 21-year-old driver in a crash that killed his two teen passengers tells his story for the first time in a video recently released on YouTube.
Dean Tillema III, of DeMotte, talks openly about the events leading up to the early morning fiery crash on a quiet country road May 22 and how a decision he made to drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel cost the lives of his two friends.
"I felt I was in control. But if you get behind the wheel and have been drinking, no one is in control. Alcohol is in control," Tillema says in the video.
Killed in the crash were Eric Sims, 17, of DeMotte, and Taylor Cavinder, 16, of Wheatfield. A third passenger, Thomas Cooley Jr., 21, of DeMotte, was not seriously injured.
Erica Fisher, Sims' mother, said she has not yet viewed the video and just learned about its existence Tuesday.
She is extremely upset the video was released.
"I'm going to talk to my lawyer about it. ... Not enough time has passed. We're still in our stages of grieving. It's very inconsiderate on their behalf," Fisher said.
She said although the message may be considered a public service by Tillema and his lawyer, it's not a message she'd want her two younger daughters, ages 13 and 5, to see at school.
"They don't need to push (Tillema's) face into a public service announcement. ... He's not someone I want my children to learn a lesson from," Fisher said.
Taylor Cavinder's parents, Diane and David Cavinder, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Tillema, who is joined in the video by his parents, Dean Tillema Jr. and Cindy Tillema, wanted to make the video to help other teens avoid what he, his parents and the community have experienced, said Tillema's attorney, Bryan Truitt.
"He knows what has been done can't be undone," Truitt said. "He's made it his mission so no one else goes through what his family and other families did. He wanted to do this."
Tillema has been charged with 10 counts in Jasper Circuit Court, the most serious of which are two felony counts of causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance in the blood.
Toxicology tests taken after the crash showed Tillema's blood-alcohol concentration at 0.16, twice the legal limit in Indiana.
Tillema's pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 15; his hearing, Sept. 29.
Jesse Harper, a former Valparaiso resident now living in Los Angeles, said Truitt, a friend of his from high school, contacted him about making the video through his company, Jesse Bob Harper Productions.
"They wanted to show the consequences of drinking and driving," Harper said.
Harper, who was paid by Truitt, said he traveled to the Tillemas' DeMotte home and shot the video after asking questions of which the family did not have prior knowledge.
"The unscripted part is the answers," Harper said.
In the video, Tillema's parents describe themselves as being "a typical white-picket-fence family" until they received a call at 3 a.m. from police saying their son had been in an accident and taken to St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point.
They later learned Sims and Cavinder died while their son was behind the wheel.
"Our whole world came crashing down," Dean Tillema Jr. said.
He said he and his wife have come to grips with the fact their son will have to go to jail for his actions that night.
"He made a bad choice," Tillema said.
The younger Tillema said he had driven the roads -- County Road 1100 West and County Road 1100 North -- countless times and thought he could handle it, even though he had been drinking.
At the close of the video, he repeats the lesson learned about making bad choices and urges other young people not to drink and drive.
"You make decisions every day. You can choose not to drink and drive. ... What will you choose?" Tillema asked.
Truitt and Harper said they have plans to reproduce about 150 to 200 DVDs that will be released to groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and to schools.
Truitt said the release of the video on YouTube was sort of a test to determine response.
"We posted it briefly yesterday to see if it needed further editing." Truitt said Tuesday. "It got passed all over the place. The response was overwhelming."