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Update: Mother of Toddlers Who Drowned in May Arrested on Child Abuse and Drug Charges

Tassie Behrens, 26, was taken into custody at an El Cajon motel Thursday morning in connection with the deaths of her year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

Harley and Jason Bradford. Patch file phone originally from Facebook
Harley and Jason Bradford. Patch file phone originally from Facebook

Originally published 11:57 a.m. Sept. 19.

A woman whose two toddlers drowned four months ago in a swimming pool at a friend's La Mesa home while she slept was arrested Thursday on suspicion of felony child abuse and drug violations.

Tassie Anne Behrens, 27, was taken into custody without incident at a motel on East Main Street in El Cajon late this morning in connection with the May 13 deaths of her 16-month-old daughter, Harley Bradford, and 2-year-old son, Jason Bradford Jr., according to sheriff's officials.

About 9:45 a.m. that Monday, Behrens awoke at a home where she was staying in the 10000 block of Sunset Avenue in the Mount Helix area near La Mesa and found her children floating unconscious in the backyard pool, Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.

Behrens pulled them out, and she and a friend who lived at the house drove them to a nearby fire station. Paramedics tried to revive the toddlers before taking them to Sharp Grossmont Hospital, where Harley was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Her brother was transferred to Rady Children's Hospital, where he died late that night.

The mother first told investigators the drownings had occurred at a mobile-home park on Jamacha Boulevard in Spring Valley, but later admitted that they happened at her friend's home in the Mount Helix area. She apparently fabricated the initial story in an attempt to keep him from getting into trouble for not having a fence around the pool, Giannantonio said.

During a search of the house, where Behrens and her children had been staying for several days, deputies discovered a marijuana-cultivation setup in a basement area and called in Narcotics Task Force personnel to investigate, he said.

That evening, drug agents arrested a resident of the home, Larry Dangelo, 44. He was booked on suspicion of child abuse and cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale.

Behrens was booked into Las Colinas women's jail in Santee this afternoon on similar criminal counts. She was being held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Behrens initially told investigators that the children were found in the pool at a mobile home park. She later admitted they were found in the pool at the residence at 10011 Sunset Avenue in unincorporated La Mesa.

The toddlers' paternal grandfather, Pat Bradford, told U-T San Diego in May that their father's cousin sought to take in the children and was supposed to gain custody of them the day after they drowned. 

The father, Jason Bradford, is currently serving a 60-month federal prison sentence in Phoenix for conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, according to court and prison records.

Read the original story about the toddler's deaths on Patch.


City News Service

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