“We thought she was crazy,” Leanne Pasztor, Amber Pasztor’s mother, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “I think her thought was, ‘If she can’t have them, nobody can.'”
Amber Pasztor has been charged with the murder of her two estranged children, Liliana Hernandez, 7, and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor, PEOPLE confirms. The two were found in a car behind the Elkhart Police Department on Monday after Pasztor allegedly abducted the pair, prompting an Amber Alert.
Pasztor allegedly approached a police officer outside a police station and told him there were two dead people in the back seat of her car, Elkhart Police spokesperson Sgt. Chris Snyder tells PEOPLE.
The two children died of asphyxiation, Elkhart County Coroner James Elliott tells PEOPLE.
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Prior to that, the children had last been seen at about 6:21 a.m. Monday. The Amber Alert was issued on 12:30 p.m., and at a press conference, Snyder said the children were “believed to be in extreme danger.”
Pasztor lost custody of her children a year and a half ago, her family says, because she allegedly had substance abuse problems and threatened to harm the children, according to both Leanne Pastor and her step-grandmother, Emily Lasko Green.
Leanne Pasztor says Liliana and Rene were scared of their mother, who she described as “evil.”
Liliana and Rene moved from their Fort Wayne home to live with Green, Leanne Pasztor and Green tell PEOPLE.
As for whether she thought her daughter was a good mother, Leanne Pasztor tells PEOPLE, “No, no, no.”
Green: ‘We Fought So Hard for Them’
Both Leanna Pasztor and Green say the children were happy in their new home, describing the pair as “wonderful.”
Getting custody of the children “was awesome,” Green says. “We fought so hard for [Rene and Liliana]. We walked through hell to get them.”
In her grief, Green says she is focusing on her fond memories of the children.
“[Liliana] loved to color, to read. She loved shopping and her American Girl doll,” Green says.
“And Rene was so handsome and he excelled at every sport. From tricks on his bike to baseball, anything he did he excelled,” she adds.
The Saturday before they disappeared, Leanne Pasztor and Green took the children to a local fair.
“[We] got wrist bracelets so they could ride everything as much as they wanted, and funnel cake and nachos,” Green says. “They had a blast.”
The family has not spoken to Pasztor, who is being held in Elkhart County Jail, PEOPLE confirms. No information was immediately available on whether she has entered a plea or retained an attorney.
“They were our babies,” Green says. “God gave us babies and she took them away.”