COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A woman accused of killing her three young sons over a 13-month period out of jealousy at the attention her husband paid them was indicted Tuesday on aggravated murder charges that carry the possibility of a death sentence.
The charges against Brittany Pilkington in Bellefontaine, in western Ohio, about 55 miles from Columbus, include capital punishment factors of multiple victims and victims under 13.
Logan County Prosecutor William Goslee had previously said death penalty charges were unlikely given the circumstances, which included what he said was Pilkington’s abusive childhood and life with her controlling husband, who previously was her mother’s boyfriend.
He described a troubled woman who wanted “to eliminate male children” so her husband would have more time for her and her daughter.
“To imagine a jury that would say that this is a person with a depraved heart that should die at the hands of some chemistry, I don’t think that’s likely,” Goslee said Aug. 19, referring to Ohio’s lethal injection process. A message was left seeking comment.
Pilkington, 23, is in jail on $1 million bond. She didn’t speak at a brief court hearing last week and wasn’t required to enter a plea on the murder charges against her.
Her mother, Lori Cummins, said Pilkington told her in a brief jailhouse phone call last week that she’s innocent. A message was left with Pilkington’s attorney Tuesday after the indictment.
But police and prosecutors say Pilkington confessed Aug. 18, the day her third son, 3-month-old Noah, was found dead.
Goslee has said authorities didn’t have any evidence of a crime in the earlier deaths and no one could have predicted Pilkington would kill her remaining son.
Authorities were unsure what caused the July 2014 death of 3-month-old Niall, which was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome. After 4-year-old Gavin died in April, a daughter and the newborn boy, Noah, were taken into custody by the Logan County Children’s Services agency pending an investigation.
During a hearing, a doctor speculated that the boys might have had a genetic defect. But the doctor also said there were signs of neglect.
A judge allowed Noah to be returned home because there wasn’t conclusive evidence the first two boys had been killed. The judge, Dan Bratka, said he couldn’t comment about the Pilkingtons because the family’s child services case is pending in his court.
Authorities now believe Pilkington used each boy’s comfort blanket to suffocate him in his crib or bed because she wanted her husband to pay more attention to her and their 3-year-old daughter, Goslee said.
Goslee said Pilkington was dominated and isolated by her 43-year-old husband, Joseph Pilkington, who had been Cummins’ live-in boyfriend before marrying Brittany Pilkington in 2010. He isn’t a suspect in the case. Relatives say he hasn’t been seen since his wife’s arrest. He hasn’t returned messages from The Associated Press.
Police and prosecutors have noted that Brittany Pilkington did not seem affected or emotional about her sons’ deaths.
Cummins said that her daughter was always good with the children and that Joseph Pilkington favored the 4-year-old son over the 3-year-old daughter. This bothered Brittany Pilkington, who said the children should be treated equally, Cummins said.
The county prosecutor has alleged Brittany Pilkington was physically abused as a child by her father. Her father, Ed Cummins, said he wasn’t present when she grew up and he regrets it. But Cummins, 41, said he never harmed her.
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