RENSSELAER | Events surrounding the May 22 fiery crash that killed two teens were termed a "tragedy of mistakes" by Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter.
"The events that night ruined the lives of all three families," Potter said during an emotionally wrought sentencing hearing.
Potter made his comments Wednesday prior to sentencing Dean Tillema III, 22, of DeMotte, to two consecutive six-year sentences, with three of the 12 years to be served under probation
Tillema pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to two Class C felony counts of causing death while driving with a controlled substance.
Prior to sentencing, Potter allowed five family members of the two victims to make statements as well as Tillema himself.
Tillema at the Dec. 3 hearing admitted to driving drunk the night of the crash outside DeMotte and causing the death of passengers Eric Sims, 17, of DeMotte, and Taylor Cavinder, 16, of Wheatfield.
Sims and Cavinder were Kankakee Valley High School students.
A third passenger, Thomas Cooley Jr., 21, of DeMotte, was not seriously injured.
Diane Cavinder, mother of Taylor Cavinder, fought tears as she spoke about the morning of May 22 when she got a knock on the door and was told by a coroner and two police officers her first-born child was killed in a crash outside DeMotte.
"I didn't get to identify my daughter because she was burned beyond recognition. We never got closure with her because we didn't get to see her, touch her, or kiss her beautiful face goodbye," Cavinder said.
Both the hands and voice of Erica Fisher shook as she read her statement during the proceedings.
Fisher, mother of Eric Sims, called her much loved son a momma's boy who would always kiss her goodbye and was always full of hugs.
She said since the death of her son she's suffered from a tremendous loss that's led her to be treated for depression and anxiety.
"All the while I just want to fall apart," Fisher said.
Tillema, dressed during the sentencing in a black and white shirt and tan pants, spoke briefly voicing his apology to the families.
"I truly regret what happened that night," Tillema said.
Potter advised Tillema to learn from his mistakes while serving his jail sentence and to live a productive life once released.
"You're now living the life of three people," Potter said.
Tillema's lawyer, Bryan Truitt, said although his client was sentenced to 12 years in prison, he'll likely end up serving no more than 4 1/2 years due to several factors, including previously served time, probation and the state's good time credit.
Those 4 1/2 years could be reduced even more if Tillema takes college and substance abuse classes, Truitt said.