A father pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple charges alleging that he killed his three children — ages 2, 3 and 5 — by drowning them in a bathtub last month in Round Lake Beach.
Jason E. Karels, 35, of the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach, was initially charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
A grand jury later indicted him on a total of nine first-degree murder charges.
The multiple counts are for Karels’ “intent to kill,” “knowing the acts will cause death or great bodily harm,” and “creating a strong probability of death of great bodily harm,” according to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Karels appeared in court Thursday morning for an arraignment hearing. He entered not guilty pleas for all counts.
Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said during a press conference last month that officers responded to Karels’ residence in the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach around 1:40 p.m. on June 13 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.
The children were identified as Gideon Karels, age 2; Cassidy Karels, age 3; and Bryant Karels, age 5.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Facklam said during a court hearing 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.
Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Newton said preliminary autopsies on Gideon, Cassidy and Bryant confirmed they died from drowning.
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 later transported to the Lake County Jail.
Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak initially ordered Karels held on a $10 million bond and then later ordered him held without bond.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart previously said this is a “devastating case for our community, and we are resolved to achieve justice for these three innocent children.”
After the arraignment hearing Thursday, Rinehart said his office was placing significant resources into preparing for trial.
Rinehart also said his office has had extensive meetings with the family to “let them know our office supports them and will be with them throughout the process.”