Addict's heroin use, rap sheet went hand in hand

 
 
Updated 4/4/2014 5:30 PM
Editor's note: This story originally ran on Dec. 22, 2002 as part of the Daily Herald's "Hidden Scourge: Heroin in the Suburbs" series.

Jeffrey H. van Teylingen packed a lot of lawbreaking into his 23 years.

His criminal record dates back to 1994 and includes more than 30 charges from arrests in Lake, Cook, DuPage and McHenry counties. With convictions for battery, retail theft, trespassing, criminal sexual abuse, obstructing justice and other violations, his rap sheet reads like an index to the Illinois criminal statutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He wasn't an angel," said the former Wauconda resident's older sister, Jennifer van Teylingen.

Jeff did drugs, too, and his lifestyle eventually was his undoing. He overdosed on heroin in September, collapsing on the floor of a friend's apartment in Chicago's Douglas neighborhood.

"I don't understand why he did it," Jennifer said of her brother's heroin habit. "I don't know why someone would do something they know they're going to get addicted to."

'Choopie'

Born Oct. 28, 1978, at Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines, Jeffrey Henry van Teylingen was the youngest of Leo and Carmen van Teylingen's three children. In addition to Jennifer, Jeff had another older sibling, a brother named Jason. Jennifer is 28 now, and Jason is 26.

Jeff was a large baby - he weighed more than 10 pounds at birth - and his cherubic appearance led to an early nickname.

"He had really cute chubby cheeks. We used to call him Choopie," Jennifer said. "He had chubby cheeks until puberty, probably."

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The van Teylingens lived in Des Plaines, and Jeff had typical interests for a suburban boy growing up in the 1980s. He collected baseball cards, liked "Star Wars" and kept a cache of "Masters of the Universe" action figures, Jennifer said.

He also liked hockey and basketball, and he enjoyed singing for the family.

"He liked to entertain," Jennifer said. "He got a lot of attention. He had a cute personality."

Leo van Teylingen recalled taking fishing trips with Jeff. They'd hunt for crappies at a lake near their home and head out in a boat on Lake Michigan for perch.

"I really bonded with Jeff," he said.

Jeff attended Our Lady of Ransom Catholic School in Niles and then went to Gemini Junior High, also in Niles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In 1989, when Jeff was 11, Leo and Carmen van Teylingen divorced. Leo van Teylingen believes the divorce was hard on Jeff. Leo also said his own job as a truck driver meant a lot of time away from home, and may have contributed to the problems Jeff later experienced.

Jeff's high school career started at Maine Township High School East in Park Ridge. When he and his siblings moved with their father to Wauconda in 1995, he enrolled at Wauconda High.

From all accounts, his life spiraled out of control shortly afterward.

A life of crime

Jeff entered Wauconda High School as a sophomore, taking such basic classes as English, math, science and art, Principal Jim LePage said. He did not participate in sports, clubs or other extracurricular activities, LePage said.

Drugs entered Jeff's life about the same time, his family believes. His drug use began as experimentation with alcohol and marijuana, his sister said. Jennifer isn't sure why her brother started taking illegal drugs and thinks he may have been influenced by friends.

"At first he started hanging out with the wrong crowd," she said. "(But) he wanted to try it."

The occasional alcoholic drink or marijuana joint developed into more regular use, then to a daily habit, Jennifer said. That led to a change in Jeff's behavior - most notably, a laziness that wasn't present before, his sister said.

"He really didn't care about anything," Jennifer said.

Jeff's legal problems started in the mid-1990s when he was a teen, his family said. Among the earliest incidents was a Cook County circuit court conviction for criminal trespass to motor vehicle in late 1994. Only 16 at the time, he was sentenced to juvenile supervision, but later violated terms of that supervision and terms of the resulting probation, court records show.

He faced convictions for truancy and other offenses after arrests in 1995, too, Lake County court records indicate.

The teen's drug use didn't necessarily cause his criminal behavior, Jennifer said. She believes they went hand in hand.

"I just think he was making the wrong choices," she said. "Then you lead that lifestyle, and it's almost normal."

Wauconda Village Administrator Dan Quick was a Wauconda police sergeant in the 1990s, and he recalled several confrontations with Jeff. A few led to foot chases.

"He was a runner. He was a hard kid to catch," Quick said. "I remember chasing him many times. He was like a deer."

Jeff's criminal behavior intensified in 1996. After being suspended from Wauconda High early that year, he was arrested in February when he returned to the school, screamed obscenities during a volleyball tournament in the gym and pushed a teacher. He pled guilty to battery and was sentenced to 120 days in Lake County jail.

Jeff withdrew from Wauconda High in 1996. Later that year, he earned a general equivalency diploma while entered in a 40-day program at the Gateway substance-abuse center in Lake Villa, according to court records.

But the diploma and treatment didn't keep him out of trouble. A June 1996 arrest led to jail time for criminal trespass to vehicles. The following February, he was sent back to jail for obstructing justice in a McHenry County case.

And in April 1997, he was arrested after having sex with an underage girl, court files indicate. He was convicted of criminal sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 days in jail, substance-abuse treatment and sex-offender treatment. He did not finish either treatment program, according to court records.

He didn't accept help

Jeff's family was angry about the drug abuse and criminal activity, and his relatives tried to help him get straight, his sister said. But they couldn't get through.

"We tried to help him, but he didn't listen," Jennifer said. "I was mad at him. Nobody from our family had gone to jail or had been addicted to drugs."

In 1998, Jeff fathered a son with his girlfriend at the time. The boy took his mother's last name and didn't see much of his father. Now 4, the boy lives with his mother.

Jeff performed odd jobs when he was out of jail, but none of them took. According to court records, his work history included stints with a construction crew and a survey firm.

Mostly he was unemployed.

"He was addicted to drugs, so he didn't work," Jennifer recalled.

More arrests came in 1999, including shoplifting cases in Chicago, Des Plaines and Gurnee, the latter of which resulted in a seven-month jail sentence.

The following year brought convictions for trespassing and possession of a narcotic instrument. In 2001, Jeff was convicted of retail theft, attempted retail theft and attempted battery, all stemming from cases in Chicago.

For several of his later arrests, Jeff used a variety of aliases, according to Illinois State Police records. Among the 21 names he gave police throughout his life was that of his older brother, Jason, records show.

Heroin's grip

Jennifer isn't sure when her youngest brother began using heroin, but believes it was in his late teens or early 20s. As of 1997, Jeff's drug use may have still been limited to marijuana and alcohol. He tested positive for those substances that year, court records show.

Jeff first sniffed heroin but later turned to injecting it into his veins, his sister learned. He reportedly got the drug from a source in Wauconda, but later went to Chicago to score.

"He started going to the bad neighborhoods to get drugs," Jennifer said.

Leo van Teylingen admits he was "in denial" for a long time about his son's drug problem. He recalled watching Jeff shake from heroin withdrawal once as they were driving together.

"It would just break my heart," Leo van Teylingen said. "I knew he was taking something. Later on, I found out about the heroin."

Jeff's mother, Carmen Dattilo, learned about her son's heroin habit about a year ago when he was hospitalized after an overdose. She was devastated when she heard he was hooked on the drug.

"I had never known anyone who did heroin," said Dattilo, who remarried and now lives in Wisconsin. "Heroin was something you read about in a book or a newspaper."

Jeff would leave his Wauconda home for several months at a time and no one would know where he was living, Dattilo said. He would call his mother and ask her to wire him money for food. She thinks he may have used the cash for drugs, too.

"I couldn't say 'no,' " Dattilo said. "He was going to do drugs whether I sent him the money or not, so I sent him the money."

Jeff's drug use led to more crimes and bloody fights, his sister said. This past April, he was hospitalized for a month after one such fight left him with internal injuries and temporary deafness.

"He was beaten up so severely, his kidneys shut down," Jennifer recalled.

And still he continued getting high - until, according to police, the drugs killed him.

A family grieves

Jeff died Sept. 8 while visiting an acquaintance on the 3000 block of South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The friend told police he had met Jeff in the area and walked to his apartment, according to Chicago police reports. Jeff had taken heroin before they met, the friend told investigators.

While at the apartment, Jeff collapsed to the floor. An ambulance was called to the scene, but he could not be revived.

The official cause of Jeff's death was opiate intoxication, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. No charges were filed in connection with his death, police said.

Police called Leo van Teylingen at the family's Wauconda home the night Jeff died and told him of his son's death. Jennifer was there and saw her father break down from the news.

"He got off the phone and just started crying," she said. "He just said, 'Jeff's dead.' I've never seen him cry like that before. We were all crying. It was horrible."

Jeff's death shocked longtime friend Todd Adawi, too. A Wauconda resident, Adawi went to high school with Jeff and maintained their friendship after both left school.

Adawi was with Jeff at Famous Freddie's Roadhouse in Fox Lake the night before he died.

"We were having a good time," Adawi, 22, recalled. "Everything was great. We were having a couple beers, talking to the ladies - he was a ladies' man. Girls loved that guy."

Adawi said Jeff's death has prompted him to re-evaluate his own life.

"Life is such a precious thing," he said. "You've got to appreciate it."

Although Jennifer said her family has learned to cope with Jeff's death, a sadness still exists in their lives. Her mother often cries when she calls Jennifer. Her father, she said, "will never be the same."

Leo van Teylingen visits Jeff's grave every weekend, regardless of the weather. He said he was "close to suicidal" when his son died.

"I always thought he would be with me," Leo van Teylingen said. "I always thought that he'd bury me, not that I'd be burying him."

Looking back, Jennifer actually finds solace in how Jeff died. The way he lived, she said, it could have been much worse.

"I just thank God that it happened this way and he didn't get murdered," Jennifer said. "That was a big fear of mine, that he'd go into the projects and someone would rob and kill him. That's the lifestyle he led."

'Jeff, I hope you know we all love you'

Editor's note: This is an essay written by Jennifer van Teylingen, the older sister of Jeffrey H. van Teylingen, who died of a heroin overdose in September.

Words are not strong enough to really describe the pain and devastation Jeff's death and heroin addiction caused my family and me.

My dad visits Jeff on Saturdays and Sundays at the cemetery and my mom literally cries every day. My brother Jason and I feel guilty for not trying harder to talk to him and convince him that he needs help. The truth is that he would not have listened to us, just like he did not listen to anybody else.

Jeff must have thought he was invincible. In a way, it almost seemed like he was. His young body endured an unknown amount of overdoses, a numerous amount of near-fatal beatings, a few car accidents, a heart attack and kidney failure. Those occurrences all were drug-related in one way or another. It was a miracle he pulled out of those situations without any serious damage to his body.

Although he had many good qualities he just could not overcome his addiction to that narcotic.

My brother had everything to live for: a son; a family who loved him; intelligence; good looks; and the gift of life. But heroin ruled everything. It was his love and his life.

The last time that I saw Jeff was on the afternoon of Sept. 8th, the same day he passed away. I was using the phone and he was bugging me to get off because he was in such a rush to call his friend. Who would have known that the last conversation I would have with my brother was about the stupid phone?

Well, at about 9:45 p.m. that dreaded call came. Jeffrey is dead. My "little brother" died from an apparent overdose in his so-called friend's apartment - the same one he had to talk to earlier in the day.

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Did his "friend" call the police fast enough? Maybe if the ambulance had arrived 15 minutes earlier, would he have survived? Or maybe Jeff's body just really couldn't take any more abuse. Maybe if he were just strong enough not to stick that disgusting needle into his arm, he would be here today.

Well, it's too late now. No more chances. No more hope. It's over. Jeff, I hope you know we all love you and miss you very much and pray that you are in a better place.

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