Trial ordered for woman whose two toddlers drowned

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EL CAJON, Calif. — A woman whose two toddlers drowned in a swimming pool at a friend’s home near Mt. Helix where a cannabis-cultivation operation was discovered was ordered Friday, along with the resident of the house, to stand trial on numerous felony charges.

La Mesa Pool DrowningFollowing a one-day preliminary hearing at the El Cajon Courthouse, Judge Patricia Cookson ruled that there was enough evidence to send Tassie Anne Behrens, 27, and Larry Dangelo, 44, to trial.

Sheriff’s Detective Norman Hubbert testified that Behrens first told her the drownings took place at a mobile home park in Spring Valley, but when he told her deputies went to the house at 10011 Sunset Ave. rented by Dangelo, she conceded that was where the tragedy actually occurred.

According to the detective, Behrens took her son, Jason Bradford Jr., 2 years and 9 months old, and daughter Harley Bradford, 16 months, swimming the night of May 12. She said they all went to bed around 9 p.m., the children on a couch and she in a bedroom with Dangelo.

Hubbert said Behrens told them she saw her children on the couch when she used the restroom around 4 a.m., but four hours later, Jason came in and asked where Harley was. Behrens told the detective she fell back to sleep, and neither child was around when she woke up.

“She went out to the back patio that overlooks the back yard and saw the children face-down in the pool,” Hubbert said.

She ran down screaming to the pool and pulled them out, and the children were rushed to Grossmont Hospital, where Harley was pronounced dead. Jason was transferred to Rady Children’s Hospital, but he also died.

A marijuana growing operation was discovered in the basement of the residence, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Together, the defendants are charged with two counts of child endangerment, possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana and manufacturing a honey oil lab, Deputy District Attorney Chantal De Mauregne said. Honey oil is commonly known as hash oil.

Separately, Behrens is also charged with offering to furnish heroin and being under the influence of methamphetamine, which a blood test determined to be in her system the day her children died. Dangelo is charged with some counts related to tampering with electrical wiring to steal energy.

The judge ordered them to return to court Oct. 31 to receive a trial date. They face roughly 13 years each in prison if convicted.

The nature of the defendants’ relationship was a major issue in the hearing, given the charges they face.

Carter “Corky” Bennett, who lived in a motorhome on Dangelo’s property, testified that he introduced Behrens, whom he’d known for eight or nine years, to Dangelo when she needed a place to stay and “they hit it off.”

Bennett said she’d been staying at the house for about two weeks before the children drowned. He also said Dangelo played with the children and “paid attention to them.”

Hubbert said Behrens told him she stayed at the residence “on-and-off” for about one week before the incident, and that they didn’t know each other very well.

“She considered them girlfriend-boyfriend, but it was not official,” the detective said.

The father of the toddlers, Jason Bradford, 35, is serving a 60-month prison sentence in Phoenix for conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine.

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