The father of two Indiana boys who died after being pulled from a river was acting strangely before his sons were found in the waterway and could face criminal charges in their deaths, a sheriff said Wednesday.
Four-year-old Levi Patillo and 2-year-old Evan Patillo were pronounced dead Tuesday evening at local hospitals after witnesses pulled them unresponsive from the Kankakee River in southwestern Lake County near the Illinois state line, said Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez.
Autopsies were scheduled to determine the cause of death of the siblings, who Martinez said had apparently drowned.
“It’s a tragedy. It’s unfortunate that something like this happened,” he said at a news conference. “It’s tough.”
The boys’ father, 34-year-old Eric J. Patillo of Thayer, was arrested Tuesday and was being held Wednesday on a two preliminary counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Prosecutors will determine if he will face formal charges in his sons’ deaths.
Martinez said authorities received two 911 calls about 15 minutes apart — the first expressing concern about Patillo’s well-being, and the other at around 5 p.m. Tuesday reporting that the young boys were in the water.
He said two men who were fishing along the river noticed Patillo with his sons acting strangely, apparently lapsing in and out of unconsciousness and possibly under the influence of drugs. The men told investigators that Patillo was going in and out of the river and they last saw his sons in waist-deep water.
A few minutes later, Martinez said, the men saw Patillo jumping into the river and grew concerned because they could no longer see the two children.
“So they starting looking for the kids and found them in the water. One was floating on top of the water and one was underneath the water, unresponsive,” he said.
The sheriff said the boys were found near a boat launch at the LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area. He said police were looking to question a man who was believed to be with Patillo at the scene.
Results of drug and alcohol tests were pending on Patillo, whose wife, Savannah, said her husband “would never have intentionally hurt” their sons. “He loved them,” she told WBBM-TV.