Man murdered in Cullman County remembered as pyrotechnics pioneer

Tom DeWille from Owens Cross Roads was called an inventor of indoor pyrotechnics.

Posted: Oct 22, 2019 10:38 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2019 10:43 PM

WAAY 31 is learning more about one of the victims killed in a double murder in Cullman County.

Tom DeWille from Owens Cross Roads was called an inventor of indoor pyrotechnics.

Tom DeWille; Courtesy: David Milly

The Cullman County Sheriff's Office says Matthew Clayton is charged with his murder and for killing another man during a triple-shooting Monday. A third person is critically injured.

WAAY 31 learned about the big impact one of the victims had in the rock and roll industry.

One of DeWille's close friends tells WAAY 31 he founded a company called Ultratec. It was previously called Luna Tech. We learned DeWille developed pyrotechnics for some of the biggest names in the music industry, and he did it all in Huntsville.

David Milly, who was a friend to DeWille, reflected on the life of a friend and coworker who he says changed the pyrotechnic industry.

"Tom educated the entire United States and Europe on 'show pyro,' what you can do indoors with spectacular effects," he said.

The Cullman County Sheriff's Office says 76-year-old Tom DeWille was one of three victims stabbed and shot. They say one victim survived, but the other two, including DeWille, died.

"A tragic end to a, a special person's life with an amazing career, and he did it all out of Huntsville, Alabama. I mean, we aren't the entertainment capital of the world," Milly said.

DeWille originally worked for NASA's Lunar Technology Department.

Milly said he created the pyrotechnic company, Luna Tech. The two became partners before the company split.

"I took the lighting division. He kept the fireworks division...Pyro was going crazy. He had Michael Jackson out, Kiss out, Meat Loaf," Milly said.

DeWille worked with stars in the music industry, using special effects and pyrotechnics for concerts. Milly also says he spearheaded the pyrotechnic effects you see before events like football games.

He did it all out of Huntsville, but Milly says they had an opportunity to move the company.

"We had offers to be bought out and move the company to Nashville, specifically, and Tom turned it down. He said, 'I'd rather stay here and be around so many smart people and so many incredibly talented employees I can get with amazing backgrounds,'" Milly said.

He says DeWille helped make transporting pyrotechnics safer, by separating the components that make it explosive. Milly says he also helped create pyrotechnics that can be triggered at concerts at the press of a button.

"He did all these services for all these different bands and became world-known for that kind of thing in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama," he said.

WAAY 31 reached out to the people of Ultratec to see if they had a comment on DeWille's death. We were told the owner is out of town.

The accused killer is currently being held at the Cullman County Detention Center.

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