Round Lake Beach man charged with drowning his three children ordered held without bail

Jason Karels

The Round Lake Beach man charged with drowning his three children last week was ordered held in custody Tuesday without bail.

Jason E. Karels, 35, could face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 13 killings of his children, Bryant Karels, 5, Cassidy Karels, 3, and Gideon Karels, 2.

Lake County Judge Theodore S. Potkonjak initially ordered Karels held on $10 million bail, meaning he could have gone free while awaiting trial by posting $1 million. At the time, prosecutors hadn’t yet filed a motion asking the judge to consider no bail. That motion was subsequently filed.

Karels’ court-appointed attorney, Molly Leimback, did not oppose the request Tuesday.

“My client would not be able to post the $10 million (bail) as it’s currently set,” Leimback said.

Karels appeared at the virtual hearing from jail and did not speak during the proceedings. He wore a blue face mask over his mouth and a black blanket administered to inmates who have threatened self-harm, so they cannot use their clothing to hang themselves.

Police said Karels drowned his children before attempting to kill himself at his Round Lake Beach home.

Prosecutors say Karels also left his estranged wife a note reading, “If I can’t have them neither can you.”

Karels then fled in his car, leading 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 body cameras saying he’d killed each of his children, Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said.

An online fundraiser established to provide aid to the children’s mother, Debra Karels, has topped $101,600, exceeding organizers’ goal of $100,000. Lake County Board member Dick Barr, who helped organized the GoFundMe campaign, said others have offered to help with meals, housing, clothing, legal assistance and accounting services.

“Debbie is so overwhelmed with gratitude for the community’s generosity,” Barr said Tuesday. “While no amount of money will ever replace that which was torn away from her, she finds a glimpse of comfort knowing that the financial burdens are not something she will need to worry about for some time.”

Jason Karels is next due in court July 13 for a preliminary hearing.