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Father Facing Charges Of Neglect After Boys, 2 And 4, Die In Kankakee River In Northwest Indiana

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A 34-year-man is behind bars in northwest Indiana, facing felony charges of child neglect, after his two sons died in the Kankakee River on Tuesday, not long after witnesses saw him acting erratically, possibly under the influence of drugs.

Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said officers responded two 911 calls about 15 minutes apart on Tuesday. The first call was to check on the well-being of a man acting strangely, possibly on drugs, near the LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area on the Kankakee River, near the Illinois-Indiana state line. The second call was about two boys found unresponsive in the water near a boat launch.

When officers arrived, witnesses already had pulled the two boys out of the river. Both boys were taken to hospitals, where they were pronounced dead; 2-year-old Evan Patillo at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, and 4-year-old Levi Patillo at Franciscan Health Crown Point.

Patillo Family
Levi and Evan Patillo are seen with their parents, Savannah and Eric Patillo, in a family photo. (Photo supplied to CBS)
Levi Patillo
Levi Patillo, 4, died in the Kankakee River in northwest Indiana on Aug. 21, 2018. (Photo supplied to CBS)
Evan Patillo
Evan Patillo, 2, died in the Kankakee River in northwest Indiana on Aug. 21, 2018. (Photo supplied to CBS)

Autopsies for both boys were scheduled for Wednesday.

Martinez said witnesses reported the boys were with their father shortly before they drowned. Witnesses told police and their father was acting strangely, and appeared to under the influence of drugs.

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A few minutes later, witnesses saw the man jump into the river, and wondered where the children were, so they searched the river and found the boys.

Their father, 34-year-old Eric Patillo, has been booked in the Lake County Jail, on probable cause charges for two counts of neglect of a dependent. Martinez said police are awaiting formal charges from Lake County prosecutors.

Eric Patillo
Eric Patillo, 34, is facing two counts of child neglect, after his sons, 2-year-old Evan and 4-year-old Levi, died in the Kankakee River on Aug. 21, 2018. (Credit: Lake County Sheriff)

Eric Patillo and his boys live in Thayer, Indiana, not far from the spot where the boys died. The boys' mother, Savannah, said her husband "would never have intentionally hurt them."

"He loved them," she said.

Martinez said investigators met Eric Patillo at the hospital after the boys were pulled out of the river, and brought him in for questioning. Police also conducted drug and alcohol tests. The results of those tests are pending. Martinez did not say what type of drugs they suspect he had been using.

Police also are searching for 31-year-old Jesse Lintner, of Demotte, who witnesses reported seeing with Eric Patillo and his boys shortly before the children's deaths. Martinez said detectives want to question Lintner about what happened.

Jesse Lintner
Lake County Sheriff's police want to question 31-year-old Jesse Lintner about the deaths of two boys on the Kankakee River on Aug. 21, 2018. Witnesses reported seeing Lintner with the boys and their father, who is charged with neglect. (Credit: Lake County Sheriff)

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