The mother who found her three children murdered in Round Lake Beach spoke publicly Wednesday and said her husband killed their children because “he knew that would hurt me the most.”
Debbie Karels spoke with news reporters Wednesday afternoon about the deaths of her three children: Gideon Karels, age 2; Cassidy Karels, age 3; and Bryant Karels, age 5.
“Gideon was my baby boy that I didn’t think I would ever have. It was like a miracle baby. He loved mommy so much. He was a mommy’s boy,” Debbie said as she described each of her children.
“I just wish I was there for them that day. I just wish I was there to grab them before this all happened,” she said.
Debbie Karels said that she had recently left her husband Jason Karels and began talking with a divorce attorney. “This time it was different. This time I wasn’t given in, I wasn’t coming back. It was set in stone I was leaving because I deserve better.”
“The most important thing to me were the kids and he knew that, he knew that nothing mattered to me but those children and he took them away from me because he knew that would hurt me the most,” Debbie said.
She said she was planning on doing joint custody at first but changed her mind and decided she would seek full custody because her husband had been mentally ill.
“I know he’s been mentally ill. He never accepted to get help with it because he said he could do it himself,” Debbie said, later adding that her husband had physically and mentally abused her.
Jason E. Karels, 35, of the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach, was charged Tuesday with three counts of first-degree murder.
Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said during a press conference that officers responded to the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach around 1:40 p.m. Monday for a well-being check.
Debbie Karels went to the residence to pick up her children who were with Jason Karels for the weekend.
Rivera said the mother went into the home and found her three children dead in a bedroom.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Facklam said during a bond hearing Wednesday that police found a note in the house that said, “If I can’t have them neither can you,” referring to the children.
Karels was still married to his wife but they were separated, police said.
After Karels’ arrest, he made statements admitting to killing his three children.
He later gave a detailed statement to investigators about how he drowned each child one by one in a bathtub, Facklam said.
Karels said during the bond hearing that he could not afford a lawyer and was seeking a public defender.
Facklam asked Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak to order Karels held without bond.
Potkonjak ordered Karels held on a $10 million bond.
According to Rivera, the Round Lake Beach police issued an alert to area police departments across the Chicago area following the triple murder.
Illinois State Police spotted Karels’ red 2010 Nissan Maxima and attempted a traffic stop on him.
Karels refused to stop and led officers on a 17-minute high-speed pursuit where he crashed into a heavily wooded area on Interstate 80 near Water Street in Joliet.
Karels had to be extricated from the vehicle by firefighters.
Officers wearing bodycams captured Karels admitting to killing his three kids.
Rivera said that Karels had attempted suicide multiple times leading up to his arrest, including at the crime scene at his residence where investigators found a “significant amount” of blood that did not belong to his kids.
Karels was hospitalized and police said Tuesday evening he had been released from the hospital and transported to the Lake County Jail.
Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Newton said preliminary autopsies on Gideon, Cassidy and Bryant indicate they died from drowning.
No other substantial injuries were evident on the children, Newton said. Toxicology results are pending.
Rivera said officers did not a history with Karels or the family.
“We are all touched by this. This is not something you go to and are unaffected by. What they [officers] saw yesterday is something no one should have to see,” Rivera said during a press conference Tuesday.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said this is a “devasting case for our community.
“We are resolved to achieve justice for these three innocent children. First, we need to ensure that the defendant is not released pending trial considering the nature of the case and his flight. We have filed a motion asking he be held without bond,” Rinehart said.
“Second, we need to give any and every resource available to the family. Finally, within the office, we will devote everything necessary to make sure this brutal crime is punished, and that this defendant never ever harms anyone again,” Rinehart added.
Lake County Board Member Dick Barr said Monday evening that the three children were “taken from this earth by unspeakable evil.”
“That unspeakable evil existed in the heart and mind of the man who so heinously took the lives of three of his own children,” Barr said.
“This was not a criminal act that is emblematic of who we are or where we live, rather a selfish soul, void of humanity, void of compassion, void of mental well being, who cared more about himself than he did about his own children,” Barr said.
“As heart broken as I am, I am equally angry. I’m angry that this coward is not dead while his innocent children are stacked up at the morgue and his estranged wife weeps with sorrow no human alive should ever have to endure,” he added.
Barr, a Round Lake Beach resident, said he started a GoFundMe account to help raise money for the mother of the children.
The fundraiser has already collected more than $65,000 in a day.
Authorities said additional charges are possible against Karels, who remains held in the Lake County Jail.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on Tuesday for a bond review hearing and on July 13 for a preliminary hearing.
The incident remains under investigation by the Round Lake Beach Police Department.