Indiana Mother Accused of Smothering Children to Death Feared They'd Be Tortured by Drug Cartel

Amber Pasztor allegedly killed her two estranged children and said, "They're in heaven now"

Photo: Elkhart County Sheriff Department

An Indiana woman accused of smothering her children to death in September allegedly claimed she did so out of fear a drug cartel would track down her children and torture them, according to newly-released court documents obtained by multiple media outlets.

Amber Pasztor, 29, was arrested by Elkhart police on Sept. 26 after the bodies of her estranged children —Liliana Hernandez, 7, and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor— were found in the trunk of a car behind the local police headquarters. The bodies were discovered after Pasztor allegedly abducted the pair, prompting an AMBER Alert.

Pasztor has been charged with murder and has since been described as mentally unstable and “evil” by relatives.

According to the documents recently released by the Indiana Department of Child Services, Pasztor allegedly told detectives that a Mexican cartel was coming for her and her children because, she claimed, they had already “hacked the children’s father to pieces,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

(Whitley County officials tell PEOPLE that the body of Rene Hernandez, the father of the children, was discovered in a remote area in 2010. Because the body had been torn apart by feral dogs, authorities could not determine his cause of death and the case went cold.)

Pasztor allegedly said she gave the children a choice of either being chopped up into pieces or suffocated before killing them one at a time, ABC57 reports.

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Pasztor allegedly planned the children’s killing weeks in advance, WANE reports. The documents also include DCS reports of alleged abuse and neglect dating back to 2011, including multiple alleged instances in which the children missed school.

Indiana State Police

According to email exchanges from 2014 between DCS caseworkers, officials were concerned for the children’s safety because they believed their father may have been connected to the cartel, possibly as a drug lord, and was killed by them in 2010, WANE reports.

Even though the children did not live with their mother, her alleged instability had a profound impact on them, the documents allege. According to DCS files, WANE reports, one caregiver called Rene “a danger to his sister” because he was allegedly violent and once tried to drown her in a kiddie pool. The caregiver pleaded with DCS for help, which led to the children undergoing counseling.

Most of the abuse claims, FOX59 reports, were labelled as “unsubstantial” and the case did not escalate until the spring of 2015.

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Pasztor lost custody of her children in April 2015 because she allegedly had substance abuse problems and threatened to harm the children, according to both Leanne Pasztor, Amber Pasztor’s mother, and her step-grandmother, Emily Lasko Green, who spoke to PEOPLE in September following the deaths of the children.

Leanne Pasztor told PEOPLE Liliana and Rene were scared of their mother.

Pasztor had previously allegedly admitted to WANE that she also shot and killed Frank Macomber, 65, whose car she was driving when the children’s bodies were found in the trunk. Pasztor allegedly told the outlet she lured Macomber into the woods by telling him she would have sex with him in exchange for his gun and car.

Despite the alleged admission, no charges have been filed in Macomber’s death.

Two competency evaluations have been conducted on Pasztor since her children’s death, an Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney official tells PEOPLE. The evaluations come months after Pasztor allegedly confessed in December to killing her children in a letter addressed to Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker.

In October, Shewmaker had originally entered a plea of not guilty on Pasztor’s behalf. Her attorney, Clifford Williams, could not be reached for comment.

Pasztor is being held without bail in Elkhart County Jail, court officials tell PEOPLE.

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