Pianist's wife pleads not guilty to murder of children in Texas

Sofya Tsygankova, 31, charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of daughters, Nika, 5, and Michela, 1, is shown in this Tarrant County Sheriff's Office photo released on March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Tarrant County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - The estranged wife of celebrated Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to capital murder in the killings of her two children last week in her suburban Fort Worth, Texas home.

Wearing a yellow jumpsuit from the Tarrant County Jail and with what appeared to be scars on her left wrist, Sofya Tsygankova, 31, said little in her first court appearance in the case. Bond was set at $1 million for each of the two counts of capital murder.

Tsygankova, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted, was charged on Monday with murdering her daughters, Nika, 5, and Michela, 1.

An arrest affidavit provided by police on Tuesday said the children appeared to have been suffocated with a pillow and that Tsygankova then attempted suicide. An official autopsy has not yet been released.

Tsygankova had been in a local hospital since the discovery of the killings on Thursday for treatment of what were suspected to be self-inflicted knife wounds, police in the suburb of Benbrook said.

Kholodenko, 29, left an area hotel on Thursday morning to pick up his children at his wife's home, according to the arrest affidavit. The award-winning pianist discovered his wife inside a bedroom closet, wearing a blood-soaked nightgown with cuts to her wrists and a puncture wound on her chest, the arrest record said.

Detectives later found the children in separate bedrooms and both girls appeared to have been dead for some time. A pillow was found resting near or partially on top of their heads, the affidavit said.

Police records show Tsygankova visited a mental health facility in Tarrant County, Texas, the day before the children were found by police.

She told detectives she "didn't see any future for me and my kids" and admitted to wounding herself with a knife and swallowing a lot of pills.

Kholodenko and Tsygankova married in 2010, but filed for divorce last November, according to court records obtained by local media.

In 2013, Kholodenko won the gold medal in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He is an artist in residence with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Paul Simao)