Fort Worth

Kholodenko’s wife incompetent to stand trial in children’s deaths

Vadym Kholodenko, the winner of the gold medal at the Cliburn in 2013, poses with this wife, Sofya Tsygankova, and daughters Nika, 4, and Michaela, 2 months old, in September 2014.
Vadym Kholodenko, the winner of the gold medal at the Cliburn in 2013, poses with this wife, Sofya Tsygankova, and daughters Nika, 4, and Michaela, 2 months old, in September 2014. Star-Telegram archives

The estranged wife of renowned pianist Vadym Kholodenko has been ruled currently incompetent to stand trial for allegedly killing the couple’s two young daughters, court records show.

Sofya Tsygankova will be committed to a state mental health facility for treatment for 120 days in an attempt to restore competency, State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez ruled Monday.

Tsygankova, 32, remained in the Tarrant County jail Wednesday, held on two charges of capital murder of a person under age 10.

She is accused of smothering Michaela Kholodenko, 1, and Nika Kholodenko, 5, with pillows or by unknown means on March 17. She has pleaded not guilty.

Gonzalez’s ruling stemmed from a competency evaluation by Dr. Barry Norman, who found her incompetent to stand trial at this time. The doctor’s report has been sealed by the court.

The state did not oppose the doctor’s findings and a competency hearing was deemed not necessary by the court.

“We signed the court’s order in agreement and the DA did as well,” Joetta Keene, Tsygankova’s defense attorney, said Wednesday. “Several doctors have evaluated her and have reached the conclusion that she is not competent for a trial (or) court proceedings at this time.”

The ruling states the court believes with proper treatment and care, Tsygankova may attain competency, obtain sufficient ability to consult with her attorney “with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and obtain a rational, factual understanding of the proceedings against her.

She will remain in the jail until a bed in a state hospital becomes available.

Kholodenko, the gold medalist in the 2013 Cliburn Piano Competition, was divorcing Tsygankova when his daughters were slain.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, he arrived at her Benbrook residence in the 6600 block of Waterwood Trail that morning to take the girls to school. Inside, he found Tsygankova covered in blood with cuts to her wrist and their children in bed, not moving.

Tsygankova told police she remembered cutting herself with a knife and taking pills because she “didn’t want to live,” but didn’t recall harming her children, the affidavit states.

“Did I do anything bad to my kids?” she asked investigators when interviewed hours after the bodies of her children were found.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled that the girl’s died of “homicidal violence,” likely by asphyxiation.

Tsygankova had a history with Mental Health and Mental Retardation and had visited an MHMR facility in Fort Worth on the day before her daughters were found dead, the affidavit states.

An empty prescription bottle seized from inside the home indicated she had just filled a prescription for quetiapine, an antipsychotic drug used to treat such illnesses as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Benbrook police have charged Sofya Tsygankova, the estranged wife of 2013 Cliburn gold medal winner Vadym Kholodenko, with capital murder in the deaths of their two daughters.

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