Sofya Tsygankova, Wife of Cliburn Winner, Found Not Guilty by Insanity in Deaths of Daughters

Mother of slain girls turned over to state mental health facility

The estranged wife of an internationally known pianist was found not guilty by reason of insanity Monday in the March 2016 deaths of the couple's two young daughters.

Judge Ruben Gonzalez read the not guilty verdict in the 432nd Criminal District Court Monday and ordered 34-year-old Sofya Tsygankova to a state mental health facility.

“Our system of justice does not allow the conviction of a person who is legally insane at the time of the offense. Under our law, a person who does not understand that their conduct is wrong because of their severe mental disease cannot be convicted," Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement Monday. "In this case, a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is correct under the facts, and it is what justice demands."

Tsygankova was previously married to Vadym Kholodenko, a Ukrainian-born pianist who won the annual Cliburn competition in 2012. In March 2016, while with the Fort Worth Symphony, Kholodenko arrived at the home of his estranged wife to find her covered in blood and in distress. His children, he said, were in their beds and not moving.

The children, 5-year-old Nika and 1-year-old Michela, showed no signs of obvious trauma and were later ruled to have died by suffocation from pillows. Following her arrest, Tsygankova told investigators she thought she had committed suicide and told police that she though she put her daughters in the car before she hurt herself and that she hoped they were with their father.

In 2016, Anna Grevtseva, a friend of Tsygankova's sister Anna, said Tsygankova had been having a hard time dealing with the divorce had visited the Fort Worth MHMR facility on March 16.

Following her indictment on capital murder charges in June 2016, Tsygankova's attorney entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

Later that year, in November 2016, Tsygankova was deemed unfit for trial by Dr. Barry Norman, however the following summer, after receiving treatment for several months, she was determined by a judge competent to stand trial.

From the beginning, prosecutors said they were not seeking the death penalty in the case.

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