Children returned to Bellefontaine mom 6 days before baby’s death

A judge returned a 23-year-old Bellefontaine woman’s children to her care six days before police said she confessed to killing her infant Tuesday and two other sons over the past year.

Brittany Pilkington, of 868 E. Sandusky Ave., has been charged with three counts of murder. Police have accused her of killing three-month-old Noah Pilkington on Tuesday; 4-year-old Gavin Pilkington in April and three-month-old Niall in July 2014.

“We believe justice is going to be served out here for these three boys,” Bellefontaine Police Department Chief Brandon K. Standley said. “There are no winners here.”

A fourth child, 3-year-old Hailey Pilkington, was returned to foster care Tuesday.

Bellefontaine police arrived at the apartment about 3 a.m. Tuesday after receiving a 9-1-1 call from Pilkington that her son wasn’t breathing. Officers attempted CPR and Noah was transported to Mary Rutan Hospital, where he later died.

Montgomery County Coroner’s Office will perform an autopsy, Standley said, but no cause of death has been determined.

Noah and Hailey had been in foster care until six days ago, Logan County Prosecutor William Goslee said.

During a recent three-day hearing, both the prosecutor’s office and the Logan County Department of Job and Family Services remained adamant that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents, Goslee said, because they still didn’t know the cause of death for the other two Pilkington children.

Logan County Family Court Judge Dan Bratka found that the evidence was insufficient to justify keeping the children out of their parents care, Goslee said.

The prosecutor’s office didn’t have an official coroner’s report or a confession, Goslee said, but rather an extraordinary set of circumstances. Prosecutors wanted to keep the children longer to perform psychological evaluations and take a closer look at the family, he said.

“The problem there is we were operating on a hunch and a belief, not solid evidence … Hindsight is 20/20. So if a judge is looking at the evidence, I’m not going to needlessly criticize a judge. I don’t sit in his role,” Goslee said.

Bratka declined to comment because the case is ongoing.

In July 2014, Niall was found dead by his father and Brittany Pilkington’s husband, Joseph Pilkington, when he arrived home from work, police said. The cause of death was undetermined at the time “based on testing and a lack of evidence at the scene,” according to a news release from police.

Then earlier this year, police said Joseph Pilkington, 43, returned from work on April 6 to find Gavin dead. The Logan County Coroner’s Office and the police department are still investigating that boy’s death.

Brittany Pilkington called 9-1-1 to report that Gavin wasn’t breathing. She told dispatchers he wasn’t choking and began performing CPR, according to the 9-1-1 recording. The child’s body and lips were turning white and his chest wasn’t moving, she told dispatchers.

On Tuesday, she again called 9-1-1 to report that Noah’s sleep apnea monitor was going off and that he wasn’t breathing, according to a recording of the call. The alarm had been going off for about two minutes, Pilkington said.

Dispatchers provided instructions on how to provide CPR. The baby wasn’t choking on anything and didn’t have any medical conditions, she said.

The mother was nice but quiet, neighbor Stevi McKee said.

“She never came off like she was going to hurt a kid,” McKee said.

McKee had just held the baby a few days ago.

“He was perfectly fine,” McKee said. “There was nothing wrong with him. All he did was smile.”

Brittany Pilkington showed little emotion after the death of her other two children, McKee said, while Joseph Pilkington appeared upset about their deaths.

“She walked around like nothing had happened,” McKee said.

A special session of the grand jury could be held within 10 days, Goslee said.

McKee believes prosecutors should seek the death penalty.

“What did they do so wrong?” McKee said. “They didn’t deserve that.”

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