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Estranged Illinois father accused of drowning 3 kids in bathtub

Jason Karels and his wife were in an ongoing custody battle for their children

Jason Karels, accused of drowning his children
Jason Karels, accused of drowning his children | @ScallywagNYC

June 15, 2022 3:24pm

Updated: June 15, 2022 5:52pm

An estranged Illinois father is being accused of drowning his three children while fighting for their custody, prosecutors said on Wednesday in court. 

Jason Karels, 35, and his wife were in an ongoing custody battle for their children. The last time the children were seen, they had been dropped off with him for the weekend. 

The mother, Debra, called the police and asked them to conduct a well-being check inside a home in the Sutton-on-the-Lake subdivision after being unable to reach their dad to pick them up. 

When the police arrived, they found Bryant, 5, Cassidy, 3, and Gideon, 2, dead in a bedroom. A preliminary autopsy by the Lake County Coroner’s Office indicated that the children died from drowning. 

Authorities believe that Karels drowned the kids in the bathtub one by one. 

"Mr. Karels left a note in the home, which stated, 'if I can't have them, neither can you,'" Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said.

Police arrested Karels after he crashed his car off Interstate 80 near Joliet after a 17-minute high-speed chase with police. 

"After the crash, Karels made statements to police officers involved in the chase and wearing body-worn cameras indicating he was responsible for the deaths of the children at the Round Lake Beach home," Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said Tuesday. 

"He also said he attempted to commit suicide several times after the deaths of the children but was unsuccessful during these attempts," he added. 

Karels has no criminal or drug abuse history. However, Debra’s sister-in-law told The Daily Beast that he had “had severe mental issues and refused to get help.”

“Unfortunately, there was domestic abuse in their relationship, and Debbie was finally getting the strength to leave him and proceed with a divorce,” added Christina Neuman Berg, who is married to Debra’s brother.

“But Debbie wanted to maintain a relationship with her kids’ father and let him visit them, and now we know that was a horrible mistake,” she said.

Police are still investigating what led to the deaths of the children. 

Karels was taken to Lake County Jail and is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder. A Lake County judge set his bond at $10 million.