Ohio Mom Accused of Smothering Her 3 Sons Out of Jealousy Has Brain Damage, Her Lawyer Claims

Prosecutors say Brittany Pilkington confessed to jealously killing her three young sons over the course of 13 months

Dead Sons-Mother Charged
Photo: Joel E. Mast/Bellefontaine Examiner/AP

Lawyers for an Ohio woman accused of murdering her three sons contend she suffers from brain damage caused by lead poisoning and, on July 10, they filed a motion to have her 2015 videotaped confession to police suppressed, PEOPLE learns.

The filing from earlier this month — a copy of which was obtained by PEOPLE — also presents testimony from two clinical psychologists that Brittany Pilkington, 25, was easily influenced by detectives because of the lasting trauma she experienced as a result of years of mental and physical abuse by relatives and others, including her husband, beginning when she was a child.

The psychologists further determined Pilkington has a borderline low IQ, which they said likely impaired her ability to withstand coercive interrogation from investigators.

Prosecutors say Pilkington confessed to jealously killing her three young sons over the course of 13 months, suffocating them with a blanket because her husband paid them more attention than he did their daughter.

She was charged with three counts of murder in August 2015, on the same day that her 3-month-old son Noah was found dead and more than a year after her 3-month-old son Niall was killed in her home in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

Ten months after Niall’s death, her 4-year-old son, Gavin, was found dead. Noah’s body was discovered in her apartment three months after that.

“In her mind, she was protecting her daughter from being not as loved as the boys were by their father,” prosecutor William Goslee told the Columbus Dispatch in 2015.

Pilkington has entered not guilty pleas to the charges against her. Her trial is expected to begin in the fall.

Prosecutors have until Monday to file a written response to the defense’s motion, which they have reportedly said they oppose.

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The new filing asks the court to reconsider an earlier decision to allow Pilkington’s confession to be used as evidence at her trial.

In their filing, her attorneys argued that Pilkington suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and reasoned her brain damage “doesn’t allow her to function or problem solve as others do.” She is also highly prone to disassociation — the psyche’s ability to detach from reality under stressful or otherwise unbearable circumstances — they said.

“Such was the case when Ms. Pilkington was interrogated by male law enforcement personnel over a nine-plus hour period,” her attorneys wrote. “She responded compliantly to officers even when her responses were not true because she was disassociating.”

In his analysis, psychologist Howard Fradkin wrote that Pilkington’s history precluded her from defending herself and posits she “submitted to investigators because she couldn’t stand the pressure anymore.”

Fradkin added that he believes “the strong-arm tactics” used during Pilkington’s interrogation “were not only insensitive, but cruel.”

Neither prosecutors nor the defense immediately returned messages seeking comment on Thursday.

Surrounded by Abuse?

The filing also describes how Pilkington’s 45-year-old husband, Joseph Pilkington, allegedly began abusing her when she was 9 year old — claims which echo his actual criminal record.

Last year, Joseph pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual imposition, a misdemeanor, after he being accused of felony sexual battery because he began a relationship with Brittany when she was underage, the Dayton Daily News and Columbus Dispatch report.

Joseph was arrested in September 2015, a month after his wife’s arrest, after investigators reportedly discovered the illicit origins of their relationship.

Authorities said Joseph started having sex with Brittany “while she was a minor and he was a step-father figure living in her home,” according to the Daily News. “He was involved in a relationship with her mother from the time she was a child and purported himself to be her parent at school and at doctors’ appointments.”

In the new court filing, Brittany details how Joseph’s alleged abuse “started with porn and then incidents of touching and fondling” before progressing “to oral and anal rape” that “started between ages 11 and 13, and continued all the way through her marriage.”

The filing also claims Joseph “forced [Brittany] to marry him, by making her feel guilty that he would get in trouble if it was discovered that he was the father of” the child she had as a minor.

Efforts to reach Joseph for comment were unsuccessful Thursday; he did not serve additional jail time as a result of his guilty plea, according to the Dispatch, but has registered as a sex offender.

A Trail of Bodies

A month after Gavin’s suspicious death, and months before the other boys were killed, both Noah and Brittany’s daughter were placed in foster care. A week before Noah was killed, a judge returned the children to Brittany and Joseph, against the wishes of the prosecution and child welfare advocates.

Brittany was arrested soon after Noah’s death and is charged with three counts of aggravated murder. She could be put to death if convicted.

The deaths of her first two sons did spark an investigation, but authorities failed to find conclusive evidence of homicide.

Each time one of Brittany’s sons was found dead, the discovery was made by her husband as he returned home from work.

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