Tassie Behrens, Calif. mom, arrested on child abuse, drug charges in children's drowning deaths

Tassie Behrens

(CBS) EL CAJON, Calif. - Tassie Behrens, a 26-year-old California woman whose two toddlers drowned at a friend's home four months ago, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of felony child abuse and drug violations in connection with their deaths, CBS affiliate KFMB reports.

Behrens was taken into custody without incident at a motel in El Cajon late Thursday morning in connection with the deaths of her 1-year-old daughter, Harley Bradford, and her 2-year-old son, Jason Bradford, authorities say.

On the morning of May 13, police say Behrens awoke at a home where she was staying in La Mesa and found her children floating unconscious in a backyard pool, Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said, according to the station.

Behrens reportedly pulled them out and she and a friend drove them to a nearby fire station. There, medics tried to revive the toddlers before transporting them to a hospital where they were later pronounced dead.

KFMB reports Behrens first told investigators the children drowned at a mobile-home park in Spring Valley, but later admitted it happened at the La Mesa home. She apparently fabricated the initial story in an attempt to keep her friend from getting into trouble for not having a fence around the pool, Giannantonio said.

During a subsequent search of the house where Behrens and her children had been staying, deputies discovered a marijuana-cultivation setup in a basement area and called in Narcotics Task Force personnel to investigate, he said. A resident of the home, 44-year-old Larry Dangelo, was booked on suspicion of child abuse, cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, and other charges that evening.

Behrens was not arrested until Thursday on criminal counts in connection with her children's deaths. She was booked into Las Colinas women's jail in Santee and is being held without bail pending arraignment on Monday.

The children's father is serving a 60-month federal prison sentence in Phoenix for conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine, reports the station.