An attorney for Sofya Tsygankova, the estranged wife of renowned pianist Vadym Kholodenko, entered a plea of not guilty at her arraignment Wednesday morning on two capital murder charges in the deaths of the couple’s young daughters.
Tsygankova was arraigned at a short hearing before state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez, who set bail at $1 million on each charge.
Dressed in a yellow Tarrant County Jail uniform, Tsygankova showed little emotion and spoke softly as she answered the judge’s questions about whether she could afford an attorney.
Her arms were not bandaged, exposing stitched-up slashes on her wrists that police have said were self-inflicted.
Gonzalez ruled Tsygankova indigent at the hearing. Joetta Keene and Rose Anna Salinas have been appointed Tsygankova’s defense attorneys.
Keene declined to comment after the hearing Wednesday.
In her affidavit of indigency, Tsygankova wrote in the form that she had been employed by Texas Christian University but lost her job Tuesday.
She wrote that her husband had been paying the bills since the couple’s separation in September.
The section about dependent information was left blank.
A TCU spokeswoman said Tsygankova had been a temporary part-time employee only since February and her last day of work was March 16, the day before the girls were killed. She declined to say what Tsygankova’s job was and whether she quit or was asked to leave.
Mourners asked to remember little girls’ blessings, not just their deaths
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office has temporarily ruled the children’s deaths as “homicidal violence pending investigation,” but evidence in arrest warrant affidavits released Tuesday indicates that the girls may have been smothered with pillows.
According to the affidavit, Tsygankova told police that she remembered cutting herself with a knife and taking pills because she “didn’t want to live,” but didn’t recall harming her children.
“Did I do anything bad to my kids?” she asked investigators when interviewed hours after the bodies of her children — 5-year-old Nika and 1-year-old Michaela Kholodenko — were found Thursday morning inside the family’s Benbrook duplex.
The mother 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 discovered, according to the affidavit. An empty prescription bottle found inside the home indicated that Tsygankova had also just filled a prescription for Quetiapine, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat such illnesses as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Kholodenko was the gold medalist at the 2013 Cliburn piano competition.