‘If I can’t have them neither can you’: Man accused of drowning his 3 children wrote to estranged wife, prosecutors say

Jason Karels

The Round Lake Beach man charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the drownings of his three children left a note to his wife reading, “If I can’t have them neither can you,” prosecutors revealed at a bond hearing Wednesday morning.

Lake County Judge Theodore S. Potkonjak set bail for Jason E. Karels, 35, at $10 million, which means he would need to post $1 million in cash to be released from jail pending trial.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Facklam said at Wednesday’s hearing he would file the paperwork necessary to request Karels be held without the possibility of making bail.

Karels appeared at the virtual hearing wearing a black blanket, which inmates who have threatened self-harm must wear so they do not use their clothing to hang themselves, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said.

Karels did not speak besides when he told the judge he would like to receive a public defender because he lacked the resources to hire his own attorney.

Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said Tuesday Karels drowned Bryant Karels, 5, Cassidy Karels, 3, and Gideon Karels, 2, before trying to kill himself at his Round Lake Beach home on East Camden Lane in the Sutton-on-the-Lake subdivision.

Karels then fled in his car and led police on a high-speed chase that ended in a crash off an Interstate 80 bridge in Joliet, authorities said.

After the crash Karels was recorded by police equipped with body cameras saying he’d killed each of his children, Rivera said Tuesday.

The letter Karels left at his Round Lake Beach home was among the new details from the investigation shared by Facklam during the hearing.

Facklam said Karels gave a detailed, on-camera statement to police saying he had drowned his children in a bathtub one by one. He added, Karels gave the statement after police at the scene told him he had the right to remain silent and anything he said could be used against him in court, commonly referred to as the Miranda Warning.

If convicted, Karels could face life in prison.

In the unlikely event Karels is able to post $1 million cash to leave jail, Potkonjak ordered Karels be forbidden from contacting his wife, who was not named in open court and has not been identified by authorities.

An online fundraiser established this week to provide aid to the woman has raised more than $55,000 in more than 985 donations.

Lake County Board member Dick Barr, who organized the GoFundMe campaign, said the family is thankful for the overwhelming community support. The goal now is to raise $100,000 because the children’s mother will not be able to return to work anytime soon and does not have a house or a vehicle, Barr said Tuesday.

Karels is next due in court Tuesday afternoon.