BENBROOK (CBSDFW.COM) – For hours it was believed to be a murder mystery involving a Van Cliburn award winner… two children, a baby and her kindergarten-aged sister, murdered… and a mom left fighting for her life. But officials with the Benbrook Police Department revealed details during a morning press conference that changed some aspects of the story.
The case began when the dead children of world famous pianist Vadym Kholodenko were found in the family home, in the 6600 block of Waterwood Trail. Kholodenko’s wife, Sofya Tsygankova, was also inside the house. The 31-year-old woman had been stabbed multiple times.
Initially it wasn’t known who contacted police, but during the press conference Benbrook police Commander David Babcock cleared that up. “Mr. Kholodenko was the person who initiated the 911 call yesterday morning at 9:27 a.m. 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.”
Commander Babcock went on to say that once inside Kholodenko, a Ukrainian native and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Artistic Partner, was distressed by what he saw. “Once he arrived there he found the mother in an extreme state of distress and discovered the children in their state.”
While police still will not say how the little girls, 5-year-old Nika and 1-year-old Michela, were killed they confirmed the children were not stabbed. “We are awaiting the autopsy results from the medical examiner’s office, hopefully those will come in sometime today.”
The girls were found in their bedrooms with no visible physical injuries.
Police say Kholodenko, the gold medal winner of the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2013, has been “cooperating in this investigation and is not considered a suspect.”
When asked about the injured wife and mother Cmdr. Babcock said, “As far as Mrs. Tsygankova, she is recovering from her injuries at John Peter Smith Hospital [in Fort Worth] and she is being held on a mental health evaluation.”
Police would not confirm if investigators had spoken with Tsygankova or if her stab wounds were self-inflicted. “I do not know if she’s well enough to leave the hospital, currently. She’s in recovery. But it [health evaluation hold] just means that once she is able, physically able, to leave the hospital she will be held on a mental evaluation,” explained Babcock.
According to court records, Tsygankova and Kholodenko were in the middle of a contested divorce. Benbrook police did say that it wasn’t the first time they had visited the home on Waterwood Trail. Cmdr. Babcock said, “We made two calls to the residence in 2014. I’m not going to disclose the nature of those calls at this point.”
Neighbor Terry Messer said Tsygankova, also a pianist, spent a lot of time parenting alone. “She was a stay at home mom with two children. Her husband was gone a lot… seemed to travel. She was very lovely. She was a Russian immigrant [and] she spoke Russian to the children a lot.”
Kholodenko has played with the Atlanta, Eugene, and Hawaii Symphony Orchestras, and also with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was scheduled to play at Bass Hall tonight.
Messer said she had a brief, but touching reminder of the little girls who lived next door. “The children wrote on my driveway — their names in hearts. It was there until this [Thursday] morning, when the rain washed it away.”
While police said they are still looking at “all avenues” as to who is responsible for the murders of the little girls, they said they don’t believe that there is any immediate risk to people living in the Benbrook area and they are not searching for a suspect in the case.
We’re also getting a new glimpse into the lives of two young girls from a swim coach who gave the oldest daughter private lessons.
“I’m at a loss for words for what could have happened,” said Rachel Capper. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Capper spent an entire summer working with the oldest daughter Nika, 5.
“She always talked about how her dad was a piano player,” said Capper. “It was always kind of sweet.”
Capper met with Nika’s mother Sofya on many occasions. She said the two would discuss the lessons and Capper would give updates on how Nika was progressing as a swimmer.
“She always seemed very disappointed,” said Capper. “She always was kind of like, what can I do to make her better… how can I make her perfect at this.”
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