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Man who told estranged wife ‘If I can’t have them neither can you’ gets life for killing their kids

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago man who told his estranged wife in a note after he drowned their three young children “If I can’t have them neither can you” was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Lake County judge sentenced Jason Karels, of Round Lake Beach, after considering victim-impact statements written by the children’s mother, maternal grandmother and aunt that called Karels “a `monster’ who destroyed many lives,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are first, with the family today. This has been a devastating case for the family and community,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said in a statement.

Karels, 36, pleaded guilty but mentally ill in December to three counts of first-degree murder. He admitted that he drowned 5-year-old Bryant Karels, 3-year-old Cassidy Karels and 2-year-old Gideon Karels on June 13, 2022.

Guilty but mentally ill means a defendant has a mental illness but understands the difference between right and wrong.

Officers sent to his home to check on the welfare of the children found a note for his estranged wife saying, “If I can’t have them neither can you,” prosecutors said.

Karels was arrested after leading police on a chase that ended in a crash at an highway bridge in Joliet, Round Lake Beach police said. Karels was briefly hospitalized after the crash.

Karels told first responders following the crash that he was responsible for his children’s deaths and had attempted to kill himself before fleeing his home, police said. Officers found his blood in the house from his attempts to hurt himself.

Police said at the time of the deaths that the parents shared custody of the children but did not live together.

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