Fort Worth

Kholodenko’s wife won’t face death penalty for allegedly killing girls

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

The estranged wife of renowned pianist Vadym Kholodenko will not face the death penalty when she goes on trial for allegedly killing the couple’s two young daughters in March.

Sofya Tsygankova remains in the Tarrant County Jail on two capital murder charges in lieu of $2 million bail.

Tarrant County prosecutors filed court documents this week saying the state is waiving the death penalty in the cases.

Tsygankova was indicted last month, accused of smothering Michaela Kholodenko, 1, and Nika Kholodenko, 5, with pillows or by unknown means on March 17. No trial date has been set.

The mother has pleaded not guilty to the children’s deaths.

“Sofya’s family and friends are very relieved with the DA’s decision not to seek the death penalty in this case,” said Joetta Keene, one of Tsygankova’s court-appointed attorneys. “They are still mourning the loss of the children and now do not have to worry about losing their beloved Sofya by execution.”

Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district’s attorney’s office, said multiple staff experts investigate and consider the circumstances of each capital murder case. The ultimate decision on whether to seek the death penalty is then made by District Attorney Sharen Wilson.

“Our office takes this responsibility extremely seriously, and all potential considerations are taken into account,” Jordan said.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, 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.

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

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 discovered, 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.

At the time of the slayings, Tsygankova and Vadym Kholodenko, the gold medalist in the 2013 Cliburn Piano Competition, were in the midst of divorcing.

Attorneys for Tsygankova have made 20 filings in the case as of Thursday but all have been sealed by the court, court records show.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd

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