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Friend of mother whose kids drowned faces child endangerment charge

A boy and his sister died after being pulled from this La Mesa pool, officials said.
(Fox5 San Diego)

A 44-year-old man with criminal convictions for burglary who was living in a home in La Mesa where two children drowned was charged Wednesday with felony counts of child endangerment and drug possession.

Larry Dangelo is charged with running a marijuana cultivation operation while two children were living in the home. The home has a backyard swimming pool without a fence around it.

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Two-year-old Jason Bradford and his sister, 1-year-old Harley, died Monday after being pulled unconscious and unresponsive from the pool. Their mother was staying at the home.

No decision has been made on whether the children’s mother, identified as Tassie Ann Behrens, 26, should face charges, officials said. Bail for Dangelo was set in San Diego County Superior Court in El Cajon at $50,000 and a readiness hearing has been scheduled for May 24.

There is no indication of foul play in the deaths, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Dangelo was arrested several hours after sheriff’s investigators went to the La Mesa home and found the marijuana cultivation operation of 60-plus plants in the basement.

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The children’s mother said she had been asleep and awoke about 9:45 a.m. Monday to find the 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. It is unclear whether Dangelo is that friend.

Both children were taken to hospitals. The girl was pronounced dead at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, and the boy was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where he died later that night.

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The mother initially told investigators that the incident occurred at a community swimming pool in a nearby mobile home park. She later admitted that she had lied and that the incident occurred at the friend’s home, investigators said.

The mother 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.

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Along with child endangerment, Dangelo faces charges of manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance, grand theft and tampering with electric lines. If convicted of all counts, he could face a maximum of 11 years and eight months in prison, prosecutors said.

The children’s father, Jason Bradford, was sentenced to prison in 2011 for motorcycle theft and also has convictions on drug charges, according to San Diego television station KNSD.

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tony.perry@latimes.com


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