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Concert pianist’s 2 daughters killed, wife stabbed in Benbrook

🕐 3 min read

DALLAS (AP) — An internationally renowned concert pianist arrived at his estranged wife’s home in Texas to pick up their two daughters and found the girls slain in their beds, police said Friday. Authorities say their Russian mother, who had suffered knife wounds, faces a mental health exam.

Vadym Kholodenko stopped Thursday morning at the suburban Fort Worth home where he formerly lived to pick up Nika, 5, and 1-year-old Michela, Benbrook police Cmdr. David Babcock said. The Ukrainian-born musician found his wife, Sofya Tsygankova, in an “extreme state of distress” and discovered the dead girls. The pianist then called 911, police said.

“The loss of my children will be with me forever. But I would like to say that I feel the support of the Fort Worth community and all people who are sending me messages all over the world,” Kholodenko said in a statement released Friday evening.

Kholodenko, who won the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth in 2013, is not a suspect and is cooperating with police, Babcock said. Police said no suspects were being sought in the deaths of the girls or the stabbing of Tsygankova, who was recovering Friday at a Fort Worth hospital.

Babcock, when asked, declined to say whether police believe the stab wounds were self-inflicted. Tsygankova was being held on a mental health evaluation, Babcock said. Asked if she was a suspect in the girls’ deaths, he declined to say.

“We are still looking at all avenues,” he said, but added that authorities don’t believe there’s any immediate risk to others in the area.

Autopsy results were pending on the children, who had no visible trauma, police said. Tsygankova’s wounds were from a knife, said Babcock. He declined to say whether a knife was recovered at the home.

Kholodenko and his family moved to Fort Worth in 2014 after he won the $50,000-prize Cliburn competition, which resulted in Kholodenko touring and playing with major orchestras.

“The Cliburn family is mourning the loss of the precious Kholodenko girls. We are heartbroken and offer our prayers to Vadym and all affected by this overwhelming tragedy,” said Maggie Estes, a spokeswoman for the Cliburn competition.

Hospital officials declined on Friday to release a condition on Tsygankova, who was born in Russia.

The couple had married in 2010 and filed for divorce in November, according to Tarrant County court records. Babcock said police had responded twice in 2014 to disturbance calls at the suburban Fort Worth residence but would not disclose details on the nature of the visits. Kholodenko routinely picked up the children from the home in the mornings, Babcock said.

Kholodenko and his wife told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2014 that the decision to move from Moscow to the U.S. was a combination of spontaneity and medical problems with Nika’s skin.

“Nobody could help us with this problem, and we had a very hard time with her,” Tsygankova told the newspaper. “We wanted to be together, with Vadym, to be a family, and for us, maybe it was the only choice for us to come here.”

She told the newspaper she hoped to improve her English so she could teach kids in Fort Worth.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is named for the celebrated classical pianist and held every four years in Fort Worth. Cliburn died in 2013. Pianists audition around the world for the Cliburn competition, and finalists are picked to perform in Fort Worth. Kholodenko was among 30 finalists from 12 countries in 2013.

Kholodenko had been scheduled to perform this weekend with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Another soloist, Alessio Bax, was replacing him, the orchestra said.

In his statement, Kholodenko asked people going to the orchestra’s concerts this weekend “to think of the music.”

“Wherever I go after this tragedy my heart will stay with the people here of Fort Worth and my daughters will rest in this soil,” he said.


Weber reported from Austin.



According to the Fort Worth Symphony website: “Alessio Bax will replace Vadym Kholodenko as soloist for all performances this weekend. He will perform Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Miguel Harth-Bedoya will also conduct the orchestra in Brahms’ Symphony No. 3.”

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