HAMMOND, Ind. — The father of two Indiana boys who drowned in a river has been charged with felony neglect in their deaths after allegedly telling police he had used heroin before taking his sons to the waterway.
Eric J. Patillo, 34, was indicted Thursday on two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death.
Levi Patillo, 4, and Evan Patillo, 2, were unresponsive Tuesday when witnesses pulled them from the Kankakee River near the Illinois state line, said Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez.
Two fishermen at the lake alerted authorities about two men with young children in the area. The fishermen told police they were concerned for the children because Patillo appeared to be under the influence and going in and out of consciousness, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The men told investigators they then saw Patillo dunking himself into the river and realized the children had disappeared. The fishermen found one child floating in nearby moss. Patillo’s friend, who was sitting in their pickup truck, ran to the lake when he heard Patillo yelling and found the younger boy underwater.
Patillo admitted to using heroin that morning and tested positive for opiates and marijuana, the affidavit said. He denied that he had been nodding off, police said.
“However, Eric Patillo did admit that he was the person responsible for watching his children while they were at the river and that he shouldn’t have been using heroin prior to watching them,” the affidavit said.
Jail records don’t say whether Patillo has an attorney. A hearing date had not been set as of Thursday afternoon, according to court records.
Patillo has been struggling with addiction for several years, according to family members. The boys’ mother, Savannah Sanders, said Wednesday that she and Patillo have been together for nearly 11 years and that she is standing by him.
Police are questioning Patillo’s friend, who ran when authorities arrived at the scene. He had not been charged as of Thursday afternoon.
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