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UPDATE: Police: Drug-using father of drowned children resigned to fate. ‘A pair of hands and a pair of knees sticking up from the water,’ a witness said of the scene.

UPDATE: Police: Drug-using father of drowned children resigned to fate. ‘A pair of hands and a pair of knees sticking up from the water,’ a witness said of the scene.


Court records released Thursday paint the father of two boys who drowned in the Kankakee River on Tuesday as a man resigned to his fate.

As doctors at Franciscan Health Crown Point worked to save the life of his 4-year-old son Levi Patillo that night, Eric Patillo arrived with his parents at the hospital to speak with Lake County sheriff's Detective Jeremy Kalvaitis, those records state.

Kalvaitis sought blood and urine samples from the 34-year-old Thayer man, who had been on probation since May for heroin possession.

"I know why. I can tell you what you'll find," Patillo allegedly told police.

“That's, fine, I'll do it. My life is (expletive) over... I (expletive) up, I know it," Patillo, his clothes and shoes still wet from earlier, is quoted as having told police.

Despite court-ordered addiction and behavior counseling as part of his 18-month suspended sentence in Newton County, Patillo admitted to police that earlier that day he snorted heroin, court records allege.

Patillo tested positive for both heroin and marijuana, according to police.

It was later that night inside a Lake County police interview room that Patillo was informed his sons, Evan Patillo, 2, and Levi Patillo, 4, both of Thayer, were dead.

According to the criminal affidavit filed in the case, Patillo acknowledged his heroin use could have been the reason his sons drowned.

Patillo repeated “Dad's sorry, man;” “Dad's sorry guys,” while alone inside that interview room, the affidavit states.

A day at the river

Hours earlier, it was a pair of strangers, two men who had gone to the river to fish, who attempted to save the children, according to court records.

After snorting heroin in the morning, Patillo and the boys' mother, along with Evan, picked up Levi from school, he allegedly told police. He would then drop off the mother at work before picking up a friend at his home in Wheatfield and heading to the river.

According to court records, Eric Patillo told police he and his sons would often go to LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area near Stateline Road in southern Lake County along the Kankakee River.

Two fishermen called 911 at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday to alert authorities about two men with young children in the area. The fishermen expressed concern about the children’s well-being, police said, both claiming Patillo appeared to be under the influence. When one witness asked Patillo what he "was on," Patillo allegedly responded he was on "boy," a street term for heroin, according to the affidavit.

One of the fishermen told police he observed a sweaty Patillo “doze off” several times while trying to bait a hook on a fishing pole shortly before his sons drowned. Patillo denied that he was falling asleep, according to court records.

Earlier they offered the group a fishing pole since the men and children came to the boat ramp with no fishing gear.

The fishermen said they saw the two boys knee-deep in water before the incident. Shortly after, they noticed Patillo dunking himself in and out of the water. The witnesses said it was possible the father was attempting to counteract the effects of heroin.

After confronting Patillo and getting their fishing poles back, the two men were headed back to their camp when they realized they hadn’t seen or heard the two small boys for some time, according to the affidavit.

One of the men went to look for the boys. As the fisherman approached a bend in the river, he saw 4-year-old Levi floating on his back, partially submerged and unresponsive, 30 yards from the boat ramp.

“A pair of hands and a pair of knees sticking up from the water in the moss that was building up on top of the water,” one of the fishermen recounted to police.

The fisherman dove in and retrieved Levi, who was limp. One of the fishermen said he and Patillo’s friend found 2-year-old Evan fully submerged, about 6 feet from the boat ramp.

One of the fishermen began CPR on both boys.

As first responders arrived on scene minutes later to take over CPR, Patillo was “running around the parking lot yelling “Why, God, why?” the affidavit states.

Patillo's friend, who was in the vehicle for the first half of the incident, voluntarily testified to police and said Patillo was taking the boys to the riverside to show them where they were going to fish at a later time. The witness said he was not aware of Patillo's drug use. He said he left the vehicle and ran to the scene when he heard Patillo shouting, "Evan's gone! Evan's gone!"

Patillo's friend also disputed claims it was the fisherman who performed CPR on the children. He claims he did and that he had gone swimming numerous times with the boys in the Kankakee, according to court records.

When he was pressed again on Eric Patillo's drug use, the friend stated he wanted an attorney.

The charges

Patillo was arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

Patillo formally was charged Thursday afternoon in Lake County Criminal Court with two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony.

‘Thick as thieves’

The boys were described as "thick as thieves" by their aunt Kaitlyn Patillo.

"Evan is adventurous and loving," Kaitlyn Patillo said. "Levi is so sweet and loving. They love 'Paw Patrol' and dinosaurs, they loved spending time with Papa outside, or inside watching movies. They are our joy, our babies. Smart, kind, loving, cuddly, caring, always had each other's back."

May drug conviction

A Newton County Superior Court judge on May 30 sentenced Patillo to 18 months in jail, but suspended the sentence in favor of probation. Patillo pleaded guilty the same day to Level 6 felony possession of heroin stemming from an April 14, 2017, incident.

Patillo was arrested April 14, 2017, with three other men in a raid in Thayer after an active methamphetamine lab was found, the Newton County Enterprise reported.

Patillo was arrested on suspicion of possession of heroin and visiting a common nuisance. Two of the other men were arrested on meth charges, and the third was expected to face heroin, marijuana and other charges.

"It is a tragedy. It hit us hard when we first got the information," Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Wednesday the charges are punishable by 20 to 40 years in prison.

Times staff writer Sarah Reese contributed to this report. 


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