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Mother arrested in drowning of toddlers in La Mesa

September 19, 2013|By Tony Perry

The mother of two toddlers who drowned in a backyard swimming pool in La Mesa was arrested Thursday on suspicion of felony child abuse and selling and possessing drugs.

One of the drug counts accuses Tassie Behrens of being under the influence of a controlled substance. She was arrested in El Cajon and booked into the women's jail in Santee.

Behrens, 26, told San Diego County sheriff's deputies that she woke up about 9:45 a.m. on May 13 to find her children in the pool, floating and unresponsive.

She and an unidentified male friend then rushed them to a nearby fire station, where paramedics attempted to revive them.

Both children were taken to hospitals.

One-year-old Harley Bradford was pronounced dead at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Two-year-old Jason Bradford was taken to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, where he died later that night.

Behrens initially told investigators that the incident occurred at a community swimming pool in a nearby mobile home park. She later admitted she had lied and that the incident occurred at a friend's home where she was staying, investigators said.

Behrens explained that she did not want to get her friend in trouble because the pool lacked a fence, according to sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio.

Later, the resident of the home, Larry Dangelo, 44, was arrested on suspicion of running a marijuana cultivation operation at the home and child endangerment. He also was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and tampering with electric lines.

The children's father, Jason Bradford, was sentenced to prison in 2011 for motorcycle theft and also has convictions on drug charges.

Behrens was arrested on suspicion of five felony counts of manufacturing a controlled substance, cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale. The count of being under the influence of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor.

Behrens is set to be arraigned Monday at San Diego County Superior Court in El Cajon.

The arrest came after a "thorough investigation by the homicide detail and the narcotics task force," Giannantonio said.


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