Jason E. Karels, 36, of Round Lake Beach, (left) was sentenced Friday to life in prison after he pleaded guilty in December to killing his three children — Gideon Karels, age 2; Cassidy Karels, age 3; and Bryant Karels, age 5. | Provided Photos

A father has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his three “beautiful, innocent” children — ages 2, 3 and 5 — by drowning them in a bathtub in Round Lake Beach.

Jason E. Karels, 36, of Round Lake Beach, was initially charged in June 2022 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 were 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.

He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. During a court hearing in December, Karels pleaded guilty but mentally ill to three counts of first-degree murder.

Lake County Judge James Booras sentenced Karels to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday.

“Our thoughts are first, with the family today. This has been a devastating case for the family and community. They will always have this Office’s support. The law enforcement officers from Round Lake Beach performed unbelievably in the most difficult of circumstances imaginable. We are thinking of them too,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said after the sentencing.

“Finally, I want to thank our team of lawyers, Jeff Facklam, Eric Kalata, and Mary Daly, and the victim specialist, Dawn Patch. These dedicated professionals worked tirelessly to support the family and ensure that this offender was brought to justice,” Rinehart said.

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Then-Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said during a press conference in June 2022 that officers were called to Karels’ residence in the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach around 1:40 p.m. on June 13, 2022, 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.

Jason E. Karels, 36, of Round Lake Beach.

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 an initial 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.

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The Lake County Coroner’s Office said 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.

Police investigate the murder of three children inside a residence in the 200 block of East Camden Lane in Round Lake Beach on June 13, 2022. | Photo: Woo-Sung Shim / Lake and McHenry County Scanner

Officers wearing bodycams at the scene of the crash 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.

During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Booras heard three victim-impact statements written by the children’s mother, maternal grandmother and aunt.

In the statements that were read in open court, the family described the three children as beautiful and innocent children who did not deserve what happened to them. They called Karels a “monster” who destroyed many lives.

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The family also said that Karels was the one person who was supposed to love and protect them at all costs and instead did the complete opposite.

The victim impact statements also expressed how the loss of the three children was like a “light lost” leaving an eternal darkness in their lives.

One of the statements explained how even using the term “murder” makes the loss more difficult. The family discussed how the loss would be a wound that remained unhealed forever.

Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office Chief of the Domestic Violence Division Eric Kalata said the life sentence was absolutely necessary and appropriate. He described Karels’ actions as “brutal, evil, and sinister.”

Kalata said that Karels caused panic, fear and absolute terror in the children’s final moments and used them as pawns in a scheme of revenge.

The judge described Karels’ actions as “sickening” and “despicable.”

Round Lake Beach Police Chief Wayne Wilde and his detectives were present at the sentencing in support of the mother and children.