Illinois Dad Drowns His Young Kids, Writes to Wife 'If I Can't Have Them, Neither Can You,' Prosecutor Says

dad drowns children
Bryant Karels, 5, Cassidy Karels, 3, and Gideon Karels, 2. Facebook

Jason Karels, 35, left a chilling note to his estranged wife and was captured on police bodycams confessing to the killings, authorities said.

An Illinois father has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after he allegedly drowned his three young children one-by-one in a bathtub, authorities said.

Jason Karels, 35, was ordered held on $10 million bail at a Wednesday court hearing after prosecutors laid out disturbing new allegations about the drownings of Bryant Karels, 5; Cassidy Karels, 3; and Gideon Karels, 2, who were killed during a weekend visit with their father.

Karels individually drowned his children in his bathtub, then placed them in a bed, prosecutors said in court. After they were dead, he left a note for his estranged wife that read, "If I can't have them, neither can you," said Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart.

"This is a devastating case for our community, and we are resolved to achieve justice for these three innocent children," Rinehart said in a statement. 

Police were summoned by the children's mother, Debra, on Monday. She called after arriving to pick up the kids, but no one answered the door, authorities said.

Officers entered the home and found the children's bodies inside, Rinehart said.

Debra Karels and her three children. - GoFundMe

The couple had recently separated and shared custody of their children, relatives said. Karels allegedly had a history of mental health issues.

"Unfortunately, there was domestic abuse in their relationship and Debbie was finally getting the strength to leave him and proceed with a divorce," her sister-in-law Christina Neuman Berg, told The Daily Beast.

Debra told The Daily Beast she spoke to her children on Sunday and that they seemed happy and excited for her to pick them up the following day.

“They were excited to hear from me. They were excited to chat,” she told the outlet. “They were not doing anything special, they just seemed excited that I was going to pick them up the next morning.

“I am just in disbelief. You never think something like this is going to happen to you. I never thought he would do this to his kids,” she said. “But now I know, if you have any inkling of doubt, don’t ignore it and stick to your guns.”

The Lake County Coroner said the preliminary cause of death in all three children was drowning.

Karels was not home when the bodies were found. Police issued an all-points bulletin for the father and his car. A license plate scanner picked up Karels' vehicle, and authorities pursued Karels for 17 miles in a high-speed chase across the Chicago area, police said.

He was captured after crashing his car and had to be extricated from the crushed vehicle, first responders said.

Police said Karels told them he had tried several times to kill himself and acknowledged killing his children. Those statements were captured on bodycams worn by the officers, police said.

Jason Karels. - Lake County Jail

“I don’t know if anything could have stopped this or if there were any early indications of it,” Round Lake Police Chief Gilbert Rivera told reporters Tuesday.

Police had never been called before to the Karels home before, he said. 

“What they saw yesterday is something that no one should have to see,” he said.

As of Wednesday, a GoFundMe campaign established to help the devastated and grieving mother had raised more than $58,000.

"This fundraiser is to provide some monetary relief to handle the final arrangements for their mother as she endures the most unspeakable horror imaginable, the tragic loss of her children," the fundraiser's organizer wrote. 

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