True Crime News Roundup: Father Accused Of Killing His 3 Children, Leaving Bodies For Wife To Find

Plus: California man uses Bitcoin to pay hitman to murder his ex; police accuse woman of abandoning baby found frozen to death in 1985; woman who may be victim of alleged D.C. serial killer identified; and Ghislaine Maxwell makes bid for lighter sentence.

June 17, 2022
Bryant Karels, 5, Gideon Karels, 2, and Cassidy Karens, 3, pictured here on the couch smiling with their mother, Debbie.

Illinois father Jason Karels allegedly murdered his children — Bryant, 5, Cassidy, 3, and Gideon, 2, — and left their bodies for his wife to find.

Photo by: Dick Barr and Christina Neuman via GoFundMe

Dick Barr and Christina Neuman via GoFundMe

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A father in Illinois allegedly admits to murdering his two sons and daughter, authorities say.

Around 1:30 p.m. on June 13, police in Round Lake Beach, Illinois, responded to the home of Jason Karels, who was to hand off his three children — Bryant, 5, Cassidy, 3, and Gideon, 2, — to his wife, Debbie Karels, following a scheduled custodial visit.

A GoFundMe started by a Lake County Board member reads: “What she found instead was a horror unimaginable to all. Debbie found the lifeless bodies of all three of her children laying in a bed in the home and her estranged husband missing.”

According to authorities, Jason drowned the children before fleeing the residence.

“Police found a note that included the words: ‘If I can't have them, neither can you,’” the GoFundMe alleges.

Law enforcement spotted Jason’s Nissan Maxima on the freeway a short time later and got into a high-speed chase that ended with the suspect crashing his vehicle.

At a June 15 news conference, Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera claimed that following the wreck, Jason “made statements to police officers involved in the chase and wearing body-worn cameras indicating he was responsible for the deaths of the children” and “also said he attempted to commit suicide several times after [they died].”

“I cannot fathom the pain this family is going through right now,” Chief Rivera said.

Authorities charged Jason with three counts of murder and he was being held on $10 million bond at the Lake County jail.

A California man pleads guilty to going on the darknet to arrange the murder of a woman he briefly dated, according to the feds.

A Beverly Hills man pleaded guilty on June 13 to attempting to hire a hitman to murder a woman he met online, federal prosecutors said.

According to an affidavit, in October 2020, the woman flew to Los Angeles to see 25-year-old Scott Quinn Berkett, but she claimed he was “sexually aggressive” so she repeatedly tried to break off their brief relationship after the trip.

Months later, in April 2021, a family member of the victim phoned and texted Berkett’s father upon learning the Berkett was still getting in contact with her. “Berkett appears to have responded saying, ‘Consider this matter closed,’” prosecutors said.

A short time later, the jilted man solicited “murder-for-hire services via a website on the darknet that purportedly offered such services,” prosecutors said, citing his plea agreement. “Berkett provided the darknet group with specific directions and details about his target.”

“I'd like it to look like an accident, but robbery gone wrong may work better. So long as she is dead. I'd also like for her phone to be retrieved and destroyed irreparably in the process,” Berkett wrote to the purported hitman service using the screen name "Ula77,” the Department of Justice said.

In May 2021, after Berkett made Bitcoin payments totaling around $13,000 for the murder, the defendant confirmed photos an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a hitman sent to him were of the woman he wanted dead, the plea agreement states.

“Berkett further requested proof of her murder and made an additional $1,000 payment to the undercover officer via Western Union for her death,” prosecutors said.

Berkett is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12 and faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in federal prison for the one count of use of interstate facilities to commit murder-for-hire.

The mother of a newborn baby found frozen to death in Maine almost four decades ago is arrested, authorities say.

Police in Maine said DNA technology and genetic genealogy helped them identify the woman who they alleged gave birth to a girl and then left her to die in below-zero temperatures.

Lee Ann Daigle, 58, was taken into custody in Lowell, Massachusetts, on June 13 and extradited to Maine, where she was booked into the Aroostook County jail in Houlton on a murder charge, CBS News reported.

On Dec. 7, 1985, Armand and Lorraine Pelletier were stunned when they let Paca, their Siberian Husky, outside in the freezing temperatures and the dog returned to their Frenchville home carrying the baby girl in its mouth.

“She kept pounding at the door’s window to get back in,” Armand Pelletier said. “She kept pounding, and after a while, I went to go look, and I could not believe what I saw,” Armand told the Bangor Daily News. “I saw what looked like a little rag doll, but then we saw it was a frozen little baby.”

Investigators determined the mother had delivered the newborn on an access road leading to a gravel pit around 700 feet from the Pelletier home and then abandoned the baby and drove off or was given a ride.

Before identifying Daigle as the prime suspect in the case, detectives devoted countless hours to trying to solve the cold case death of the infant who became known as Baby Jane Doe.

“There was a tremendous amount of investigative effort put in from day one by the detectives back in 1985 and that effort has continued on,” Lieutenant Jeff Love of the Maine State Police said. “We’ve had several successes with these unsolved cases and we have several more. It’s good that we can bring resolution to the family and bring closure to a very tough case.”

Daigle, who would have been in her early 20s when she gave birth, has pleaded not guilty, Fox News reported.

Police identify a woman who was found dead in D.C. and may be the victim of a suspected serial killer.

A woman found dead in a shopping cart in Washington D.C. last September has been identified as 40-year-old Sonya Champ, the Washington Examiner reported.

Champ’s death was ruled a homicide and investigators said accused serial killer Anthony Robinson, also known as the “Shopping Cart Killer,” is a person of interest in the case.

Robinson, 35, was arrested on Nov. 23, 2021, and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two felony counts of concealing, transporting, or altering a dead body in connection to the deaths of Allene Elizabeth Redmon, 54, and Tonita Lorice Smith, 39, in Fairfax County, Virginia.

He may also be linked to the December 2021 slayings of two more female victims in Fairfax County whose bodies were disposed of in a trash can at a motel, though police have not brought charges in the case, the Washington Post reported.

Law enforcement believes Robinson would use dating apps to contact the women, lure them to hotels, kill them, and then use shopping carts to transport their bodies to be dumped, the Washington Examiner reported.

Ghislaine Maxwell requests leniency ahead of her upcoming sentencing hearing.

Ghislaine Maxwell is throwing herself at the court’s mercy ahead of her June 28 sentencing hearing, The New York Times reported.

Maxwell, 60, was arrested in July 2020 in New Hampshire, and a New York City jury convicted her in December 2021 of five counts against her, including the sex-trafficking of minors. For that charge she faces up to 40 years behind bars, while the other two counts for which she will be sentenced carry maximum sentences of five and 10 years respectively, according to The Times.

“She had a difficult, traumatic childhood with an overbearing, narcissistic, and demanding father,” the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, the defendant’s lawyers wrote in a June 15 sentencing brief to the Manhattan judge who will be responsible for deciding her punishment.

According to Maxwell’s lawyers, her upbringing “made her vulnerable” to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, whom she met shortly after her father died. “It is the biggest mistake she made in her life and one that she has not and never will repeat.”

Epstein, 66, was taken into custody in July 2019 and charged with multiple crimes, also including accusations he sex-trafficked dozens of minors. He killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10, 2019.

Maxwell’s lawyers claimed officials used her as a scapegoat after his death.

“The witnesses at trial testified about Ms. Maxwell’s facilitation of Epstein’s abuse,” her lawyers wrote in the brief, “but Epstein was always the central figure: Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification.”

“There would be no trial for Epstein and no public vindication and justice for his accusers,” they noted. “The government now had a huge hole to fill: Epstein’s empty chair.”

The lawyers also wrote that Maxwell was placed under around-the-clock video surveillance while housed in a 9-by-7-foot isolation cell for 22 months so she deserved “hard-time credit” for her “extraordinary conditions of solitary confinement.”

The court’s probation department has recommended Maxwell receive a 20-year sentence, according to The New York Times.

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