BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio » A woman accused of killing her three young sons out of jealousy at the attention her husband paid them was ordered held on $1 million bond Thursday as her family struggled to make sense of the arrest and her mother argued she was innocent.
Brittany Pilkington made a brief appearance in Bellefontaine Municipal Court, where Judge Ann Beck set the bond and scheduled an initial hearing for next week. Pilkington, 23, did not speak and wasn’t required to enter a plea on the murder charges against her.
Outside the courtroom, her mother, Lori Cummins, said Pilkington told her in a brief jailhouse phone call that she was innocent.
"I asked her on the phone, I said, ‘Why?’ She just comes across and said: ‘I didn’t. I told them I didn’t do it,’" Cummins said.
Police and prosecutors say Pilkington confessed on Tuesday after her third son, 3-month-old Noah, was found dead.
Logan County Prosecutor William Goslee said Wednesday that 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.
A message was left for Pilkington’s attorney, Mark Triplett, after the court appearance.
Authorities weren’t sure what caused the death of 3-month-old Niall Pilkington in July 2014, 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 pending an investigation.
During a hearing, a doctor speculated 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 still 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, Hailey, Goslee said.
Goslee said Pilkington was dominated and isolated by her 43-year-old husband, Joseph Pilkington, who had been her own mother’s live-in boyfriend before marrying Brittany in 2010. He isn’t a suspect in the case. A message was left with him Thursday.
Cummins, 43, said she wasn’t bothered by the fact her ex took up with her daughter, saying she wasn’t getting along with him at that point, though they still all lived under one roof.
Police and prosecutors have both noted that Brittany Pilkington did not seem affected or emotional about her sons’ deaths.
"Brittany appeared to be lethargic or tired or expressionless; she did not seem to display any sense of urgency or emotion as the result of the emergency with her son," Sgt. Donald Shields, a Bellefontaine police officer, wrote in an April 6 report about the death of Gavin.
Cummins said her daughter was always good with the children and that Joseph Pilkington favored the 4-year-old son over the 3-year-old girl. This bothered Brittany, who said the children should be treated equally, Cummins said.
Cummins also said she had told her daughter she didn’t need any more kids because she had her hands full. Brittany and Joe Pilkington briefly left town with Gavin and their daughter to live in Florida with relatives but soon returned, relatives said.
The county prosecutor has alleged Pilkington was physically abused as a child by her father. The father, Ed Cummins, acknowledged Thursday he wasn’t present when Brittany grew up, something he said he regrets. But Cummins, 41, said he never harmed his daughter.
"I never, no way shape or form abused her," he said. "Because I wasn’t around her."
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.