The Indiana mother who was found last fall with the bodies of her two young children in the back of a car has pleaded guilty to their murders

By Harriet Sokmensuer
June 02, 2017 02:00 PM

The Indiana mother who was found last fall with the bodies of her two young children in the back of a car has pleaded guilty to their murders, PEOPLE confirms.

Amber Pasztor, 30, pleaded guilty but mentally ill on Thursday for murdering her daughter and son on Sept. 26. An Elkhart County, Indiana, judge accepted her plea and she now faces a total of 130 years in prison, 65 years for each child.

Sentencing has been set for June 29. Her public defender, Cliff Williams, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Her two young children, Liliana Hernandez, 7, and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor, were found dead in a car driven by their estranged mom behind the Elkhart Police Department after Pasztor allegedly abducted the pair hours before, prompting an AMBER Alert.

In December, Pasztor penned a letter to the judge in her case admitting guilt and expressing her readiness to serve a lifelong prison term: “[I’ve] made a lot of bad decisions in my life but this one really did it … I am guilty and I accept my consequences.”

From left: Rene Pasztor and Liliana Hernandez
| Credit: Courtesy Allen County Sheriff

At the time of their deaths, Pasztor told local station WANE that she suffocated her children to send them to “a better place.” According to the station, Pasztor originally planned to shoot them but couldn’t go through with it.

“I gave them a choice,” she told WANE. “They could live traumatized like their mom or they can go to heaven with God and be better off.”

She said that both the children chose to “go to heaven,” but they fought her “a little bit” as she smothered them.

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Pasztor claimed the murders were out of fear a drug cartel would track down her kids and torture them.

According to documents previously 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 Associated Press.

Authorities previously told PEOPLE that the body of Rene Hernandez, the children’s father, was discovered in a remote area of Whitley County, Indiana, in 2010.

Because his body had been torn apart by feral dogs, investigators could not determine his cause of death and the case went cold.

Amber Pasztor
| Credit: Elkhart Police Department via AP

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 reported in February.

“We thought she was crazy,” Leanne Pasztor, Amber Pasztor’s mother, previously told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “I think her thought was, ‘If she can’t have them, nobody can.’ ”

Amber lost custody of her children two years ago, her family said, because she allegedly had substance abuse problems and threatened to harm the children, according to both Leanne and Amber’s step-grandmother, Emily Lasko Green.

Leanne said Liliana and Rene were scared of their mother, whom she described as “evil.”

“They were our babies,” Green said. “God gave us babies, and she took them away.”

Hours after the children’s bodies were discovered, Amber’s neighbor Frank Macomber, 65, was found dead of a gunshot wound in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Amber allegedly admitted to fatally shooting Macomber when she spoke to WANE last year. She has not been charged in connection with his death.