A judge has ordered a Round Lake Beach father held on a $10 million bond after prosecutors say he drowned his children “one by one” in a bathtub before leaving a letter at the scene and fleeing.
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.
He appeared in bond court Wednesday morning from the Lake County Jail.
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.
A mother went to the residence to pick up her three children who were with their father for visitation 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 police found a letter in the house that said, “If I can’t have them neither can you,” referring to the children.
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 said he could not order that because Facklam had not filed a petition with the court asking for the no bond.
Potkonjak ordered Karels held on a $10 million bond.
Following the murders, Round Lake Beach police issued an alert to area police departments across the Chicago area.
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 Tuesday evening police announced 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 the three victims indicate they died from drowning.
Newton identified the children as Gideon Karels, age 2; Cassidy Karels, age 3; and Bryant Karels, age 5.
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. Investigators are also unaware of any mental illness history.
Rivera did not disclose an exact motive for the killings but called it a “domestic situation.”
“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.
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 $50,000 in a day.
Authorities said additional charges are possible against Karels, who would need to post $1 million cash to be released.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on Tuesday for a bond reviewing hearing and then on July 13 for a preliminary hearing.
The incident remains under investigation by the Round Lake Beach Police Department.