Round Lake Beach man pleads not guilty to charges he drowned his three children

  • Jason E. Karels, 35, of Round Lake Beach

    Jason E. Karels, 35, of Round Lake Beach

  • From left, Bryant Karels, 5; Cassidy Karels, 3; and Gideon Karels, 2.

    From left, Bryant Karels, 5; Cassidy Karels, 3; and Gideon Karels, 2. Courtesy of Dick Barr

Updated 7/14/2022 2:36 PM

A Round Lake Beach man accused of drowning his three children in his home last month pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to nine first-degree murder charges.

Jason E. Karels, 35, faces life in prison if convicted of the June 13 killings of Bryant Karels, 5, Cassidy Karels, 3, and Gideon Karels, 2. Police said Karels drowned the children one by one in a bathtub before attempting to kill himself then fleeing the home, leading police on a high-speed chase that ended in a crash off an Interstate 80 bridge in Joliet.


Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Jeff Facklam, chief of the prosecutor's office's felony division, said Karels faces three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of each child.

After the crash, Karels was recorded by police body cameras saying he'd killed his children, Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said last month.

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

In the weeks since the deaths, more than 2,000 people have donated to an online fundraiser to support the children's mother, Debbie Karels. To date, the effort has raised more than $105,000.

Karels is being held without bail at the Lake County jail. His next court hearing is set for Oct. 7.

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