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Illinois Father Drowned His 3 Children Amid Bitter Custody Battle — 'If I Can’t Have Them, Neither Can You'

Illinois Dad Sentenced for Drowning His 3 Children
Source: Round Lake Beach police; GoFundMe

Jason Karels (left) will spend the rest of his life behind bars for drowning his 3 children.

Dec. 20 2023, Published 12:05 p.m. ET

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A father in Illinois will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he recently pleaded guilty but mentally ill to killing his three children, who were all under the age of 5, according to authorities.

Around 1:40 p.m. on June 13, 2022, police in Round Lake Beach, Illinois, responded to a home and found three people dead inside.

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The victims were identified as 5-year-old Bryant, 3-year-old Cassidy and 2-year-old Gideon.

Police said the children were visiting their father, Jason Karels, 36, according to WGN. He was estranged from his wife and had custody of the children.

Investigators said that Karels drowned the children, the station reported. He was then found by Illinois State Police and led them on a 17-minute car chase that ended on the interstate.

Karels admitted to drowning the young victims. At the scene, officers found a note Karels wrote that said, "If I can’t have them, neither can you."

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According to WGN-TV, Karels' estranged wife was in the midst of gaining custody of the children when he killed them.

On June 14, 2022, authorities filed murder charges against Karels, who initially pleaded not guilty.

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On Dec. 15, 2023, Karels entered the guilty but mentally ill plea and he was sentenced to life in prison, WGN-TV reported.

Court documents show that prosecutors dropped several other murder charges against Karels in exchange for his plea to three counts of murder.

In a statement following the decision, Lake County State Attorney Eric Rinehart announced Karels' life sentence, which will be served in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and said his office will "continue supporting this family through this heart-wrenching case."

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