Memorial Service Held for Drowned Toddlers

A memorial service and funeral was held in Lakeside on Saturday for two toddlers who drowned in a swimming pool earlier this week.

On Monday, 16-month-old Harley Bradford and her brother, 2-year-old Jason Bradford Jr., were found unresponsive inside a La Mesa swimming pool. Their mother, Tassie Behrens, and a friend jumped in a pickup truck and drove the toddlers from the home at the base of Mount Helix to a La Mesa firehouse on Grossmont Boulevard.

Behrens stayed with the children while emergency personnel tried to save them. Her unidentified friend ran from the scene. Deputies have said they want to question the man about the details surrounding the drowning.

Initially, Behrens told investigators the children drowned at a pool in Spring Valley. Deputies later determined the drowning had occurred at a home on Sunset Avenue in La Mesa and that Behrens had lied to officials.

Once they searched the home, authorities uncovered a large marijuana grow. They seized the equipment and the plants and arrested a man identified as Larry Dangelo, 44, in connection with the illegal drug operation.

On Wednesday, prosecutors added new charges against Dangelo, including felony child cruelty with possible injury or death. He's scheduled to appear in court on May 24.

Investigators have not filed criminal charges against Behrens in the drowning but have said they are still looking into the circumstances of the children’s deaths. The 26-year-old mother could face charges at a later time.

Earlier this week, court documents obtained by NBC 7 revealed that a judge had issued an arrest warrant for Behrens on Feb. 20. The case involved two vehicle code violations.

On Thursday, Pastor Bob Mentze with the Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church told NBC 7 the church was helping the family deal with the tragedy. The church has established a fund to help cover burial expenses for Jason and Harley Bradford.

Mentze said checks should be made payable to Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church and can be sent to 9908 Channel Road, Lakeside, CA 92040. The memo line should include the words “Jason & Harley Fund.”

As loved ones filed into the private service for the toddlers in Lakeside on Saturday, two San Diego County Sheriff’s Department vehicles patrolled the area surrounding the church.

The children’s grandparents attended the service, as well as others who knew the toddlers.

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