GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Darrell Blappert Jr. is the man accused in the drunk driving accident that killed DeAnna Tucker, the 29-year-old daughter of Gulfport's police chief.
Friday, alongside his attorney Michael Crosby, the 27-year-old defendant expressed remorse for the tragedy and shared a message about the danger of driving impaired.
But the father of the victim says this is nothing more than legal maneuvering to seek leniency in court.
Darrell Blappert Jr. admits his mistake in drinking and driving and hopes others will listen and learn. Alan Weatherford calls the publicity "offensive, calculated and obviously a ploy."
The defendant says he's sorry, remorseful and determined to speak out.
"Made a mistake. I had a couple of beers and got behind the wheel. I ask myself every day if it still would have happened if I would have never drank. But all I know is, I made a mistake," Blappert said, while seated next to his attorney.
"DJ" Blappert's "mistake" was drinking two tall beers at lunch, then later driving on a rain-slick Pass Road. The crash happened in front of a bridal shop where 29-year-old DeAnna Tucker was checking on a gown before her upcoming wedding.
"I thought that I was not doing wrong because I wasn't drunk. I just had one or two or three... you think that you're fine. You wait an hour and you'll be okay. That's not it," said Blappert.
In a split second, tragic consequences followed that fateful decision.
"I just, it happened so quick. All I remember is swerving, hitting the car and then just a bunch of commotion. People crowding around. I really don't even like to think about it."
DeAnna Tucker managed to push her young son to safety, just before she was pinned between two vehicles. She soon died from those injuries.
Blappert knows he can't change the tragic outcome, but he's hoping someone will listen.
"I deserve everything that has happened and will happen. And I understand that. And I'm not doing this to get out of trouble. I am honestly saying that I really did wrong and I am sorry. And I'm going to pay for it. And I just hope that someone else would see this and just take one second and think. And maybe they wouldn't do it," he said.
Attorney Crosby admits he's received some heavy criticism from other layers about this case. They call him crazy for letting the defendant speak out like this, essentially admitting his guilt.
The attorney says he's proud of the young man.
"He hasn't even been indicted yet. And he's here trying to help people before the Fourth of July. I think that says a lot about him. It means a lot. He wants to save somebody. Give his life meaning," said Crosby.
"It's not worth it. Just look at your family and think. Is a sip of alcohol worth losing your family? It's not. Everything will be taken away from you in a second. It's not worth it," said Blappert.
As mentioned, the victim's father, Alan Weatherford, is upset with what he considers "legal maneuvering."
He released a statement which says, in part, "The steps that are being taken by Mr. Blappert and Mr. Crosby are obviously a ploy in an attempt to seek possible leniency in punishment once the legal process is complete." (Read the full statement below.)
He also says: "As a father, I consider this offensive, calculated and nothing more than legal maneuvering."
Michael Crosby told me it's his client's intention to plead "guilty" in this case. The maximum punishment is 25 years in prison.
Alan Weatherford's full statement :
"On June 29, 2011 the family of DeAnna Tucker became aware that Darrell Blappert, guided by his attorney Michael Crosby, was in the process of orchestrating a "Public Service Announcement", to address drunk driving. As a father, I consider this offensive, calculated, and nothing more than legal maneuvering in an attempt to lessen Mr. Blappert's obvious attempt to accept responsibility.
My family nor I have received any contact whatsoever by or on behalf of Mr. Blappert or his attorney since DeAnna's tragic death to express condolences or make apologies for taking the life of our beloved daughter. Equally disturbing, Mr. Blappert has not taken any responsibility nor has made any admission of guilt in any legal setting. This furthermore substantiates this feeble attempt, in my opinion, to try this case in the media. The courtroom is the only venue in which this life-altering crime should be tried.
The steps that are being taken by Mr. Blappert and Mr. Crosby are obviously a ploy in an attempt to seek possible leniency in punishment once the legal process is complete. My family has seen this in cases before where attempts are made to present a suspect in a crime in a light which they hope will make them appear as a lesser offender.
On behalf of the entire Weatherford Family, we cannot and will not sit back quietly and watch this media circus unfold. Not only was our daughter's life snuffed out at the hands of one individual who was so unaccountable, but DeAnna's young son will forever be deprived of a life filled with his Mother's love and guidance. For these facts alone, the magnitude of our loss is now overshadowed by this outrageous effort.
When Blappert formally and legally accepts the responsibility and the proper consequences for his audacious actions, then and only then, will my family recognize any effort by him and/or his legal team, in the addressing of the hazards of drunk and impaired driving.
We wish no ill to Mr. Blappert, only justice. We do hope that from this the public clearly understands the tremendous and irreversible loss associated with driving under the influence. People should make every effort to be personally responsible for their actions and prevent further tragic events."