Fort Worth

Benbrook slayings: Cliburn winner not a suspect in deaths of his 2 girls

Vadym Kholodenko, the winner of the gold medal at the Cliburn in 2013, moved his family from the Ukraine to Fort Worth in 2014. He poses with his wife Sofya Tsygankova and daughters Nika, 4, and Michela, 2 months old, on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.
Vadym Kholodenko, the winner of the gold medal at the Cliburn in 2013, moved his family from the Ukraine to Fort Worth in 2014. He poses with his wife Sofya Tsygankova and daughters Nika, 4, and Michela, 2 months old, on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Star-Telegram

The mother of two girls found dead Thursday morning in the family’s Benbrook duplex was being held for “mental health evaluation” at John Peter Smith Hospital while she recovers from stab wounds, police said Friday.

The children’s father, Vadym Kholodenko — the gold medalist at the 2013 Cliburn piano competition — called 911 shortly before 9:30 a.m. Thursday after arriving at the house to pick up his two young daughters. He found them dead and his estranged wife, Sofya Tsygankova, wounded, police said.

“He has been cooperative in the investigation,” Benbrook police Cmdr. David Babcock told reporters Friday at a morning news conference. “He’s not considered a suspect at this time.”

Benbrook police Commander David Babcock confirmed that Van Cliburn winner Vadym Kholodenko is not a suspect in the deaths of his two children.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office had not determined the cause of death of the girls, Nika Kholodenko, 5, and Michela Kholodenko, 1, Babcock said. The children showed no obvious signs of trauma, but police are treating their deaths as homicides. The medical examiner has not ruled on the manner of death.

He has been cooperative in the investigation. He’s not considered a suspect at this time.

Benbrook Cmdr. David Babcock

Babcock would not comment on whether the mother was a suspect in the case, answering that police “are still looking at all avenues.”

“I do not believe the neighborhood should be overly concerned for their safety at this point,” Babcock said.

‘It’s too much tension’

Friday evening, Kholodenko issued a statement through the Cliburn Foundation.

“The loss of my children will be with me forever. But I would like to say that I feel the support of the Fort Worth community and all people who are sending me messages all over the world …

“Wherever I go after this tragedy my heart will stay with the people here of Fort Worth and my daughters will rest in this soil.”

Kholodenko moved his wife and then 4-year-old daughter, Nika, to Fort Worth in 2014 and began the process of getting his green card.

“I have so many friends here and people are so kind to me, so I made the decision to stay,” Kholodenko told the Star-Telegram in an interview about the family’s move. “I would like to be part of this country.”

Vadym Kholodenko and his wife Sofia and two children at an interview and photo session in Sept. 2014.

The couple initially lived with Imelda Castro, Kholodenko’s Cliburn host mother. Castro immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines in the 1960s and wanted to provide support for Kholodenko and his family.

In August 2014, one month after Tsygankova gave birth to the couple’s second daughter in Fort Worth, the family moved to a duplex. It was unclear Friday whether that is the same duplex where Tsygankova and the children were living.

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra announced Friday morning that Italian pianist Alessio Bax will replace Vadym Kholodenko as soloist for three performances with the orchestra, Friday through Sunday, at Bass Hall.

Tsygankova is also a pianist and studied at the Moscow Conservatory, where she met her future husband when they were students. In 2013, she finished second at the Mauro Paolo Monopoli competition in Barletta, Italy.

But she did not enter the Cliburn competition like her husband.

“I hate competitions,” Tsygankova said. “I had my conservatory and I played one concert a year after [Nika] was born and I had a wonderful teacher and she improved my ability to play. I feel that I continue with my education still when I prepare for a concert and when I hear Vadym’s playing, but not competition. It’s too hard. It’s too much tension.”

‘Better for us to go here’

In a 2014 interview with the Star-Telegram, Tsygankova told the Star-Telegram that before moving to the Fort Worth area, the family saw little of her husband as he traveled while developing his concert career.

She said they also chose to come to the U.S. because Nika had a medical issue with her skin that she felt was not being treated properly treated by Russian doctors.

“Nobody could help us with this problem and we had a very hard time with her and then we decided it was better for us to go here,” Tsygankova said.

Tsygankova said that the U.S. provided more opportunities for her girls than if they had stayed in Moscow.

“This is good for Nika. It’s important because she didn’t speak English at all, now she can learn English and she can learn Spanish … she is in very warm surroundings and she doesn’t feel any discomfort,” Tsygankova said. “I think it’s the best place for her for now and I hope for many years.”

Tsygankova’s parents are divorced. Her mother lives in Moscow, and her father in Novosibirsk.

Kholodenko filed for divorce in November, saying that the couple, married in April 2010, had ceased living together as husband and wife in August. Tsygankova counter-petitioned for divorce the same month.

Kholodenko filed for divorce in November, stating that the couple, married in April 2010, had ceased living together as husband and wife on or about Aug. 15. Tsygankova counter-petitioned for divorce that same month.

It is unclear where Kholdonko has been living since the couple’s separation.

“He had an appointment with the mother of the children to pick up the children at 9:20 a.m.,which was their regular practice as far as we can tell,” Babcock said. “Once he arrived there, he found the mother in an extreme state of distress and discovered the children in their state.”

‘Cliburn family is mourning’

Babcock said police had been called to the duplex in the 6600 block of Waterwood Trail twice in 2014 but declined to disclose why.

On Thursday, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra announced the release of a new recording on the Harmonia Mundi label of two Prokofiev concertos played by Kholodenko.

And Kholodenko was scheduled to perform three concerts this weekend with the symphony. The symphony announced on Friday that Alessio Bax would replace him as the soloist for the performances.

Fort Worth Symphony music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya dedicates Elgar's 'Nimrod' from 'Enigma Variations' to pianist Vadym Kholodenko from the stage of Bass Hall in Fort Worth on March 18, 2016. Kholodenko was scheduled to perform with the orches

“The Fort Worth Symphony family is profoundly saddened by the tragic event suffered by our dear friend and artistic partner, Vadym Kholodenko,” Amy Adkins, FWSO President and CEO, said in a statement issued Friday. “Our Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, musicians, staff and board send deepest condolences and prayers to Vadym and his family as they grieve the unimaginable loss of these beloved children.”

The Cliburn foundation also issued a brief statement.

“The Cliburn family is mourning the loss of the precious Kholodenko girls. We are heartbroken and offer our prayers to Vadym and all affected by this overwhelming tragedy.”

In 2014, Cliburn gold medalist Vadym Kholodenko and his family were interviewed by Star-Telegram reporter Andrea Ahles about their plans to settle in Fort Worth. Video by Andrea Ahles

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