Doctors say Pilkington has brain damage, lawyers want confession out

Brittany Pilkington

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Brittany Pilkington

The lawyers for a Bellefontaine mom accused of killing her three sons have asked again for her confession to be thrown out based on new medical testimony that she suffers from brain damage and that alleged abuse by her now husband began at a young age.

Two doctors who evaluated Brittany Pilkington say trauma and lead poisoning as a child, and a borderline low IQ impaired the now 25-year-old’s ability to withstand coercive interrogation from police, according to affidavits filed with the court.

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Pilkington is charged with aggravated murder for killing her three sons — infant Niall in July 2014, 4-year-old Gavin in April 2015 and infant Noah on Aug. 18, 2015. If convicted she could face the death penalty.

Her trial has been pushed back multiple times and the next hearings on motions are now scheduled for Aug. 21 and 22.

Her defense lawyers previously filed a motion to suppress her statements made to police following Noah’s death, in which she allegedly confessed to smothering each of the boys, according to police. They argued that confession was coerced but the judge denied the motion.

Pilkington’s lawyers have asked now that their motion to suppress be re-opened because the results of the new evaluations weren’t available until after the court’s November denial of their first request.

The evaluations were conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Madden, a neuropsychologist who previously taught at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, and Dr. Howard Fradkin, a psychologist who specializes in sexual trauma.

Their findings, “go to the heart of the issues relating to Brittany Pilkington’s ability on Aug. 18, 2015, to knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive her rights and make statements in response to the interrogation of several police officers over several hours in the immediate aftermath of the death of a child,” the motion filed July 10 says.

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Acting Judge Mark O’Connor, in denying the earlier motion to suppress, found that law enforcement interviewing Pilkington engaged in coercive tactics, but that she ultimately gave her statements voluntarily. Her lawyers say in the motion that these new affidavits will show her mental state impacted her ability to voluntarily confess.

The doctors conducted tests and interviews with Pilkington and concluded that she “falls in the mildly impaired range,” and that her, “verbal abilities exceed her ability to do nonverbal complex problem solving,” according to their affidavits.

Pilkington has an IQ of 78, according to their evaluations.

Lead poisoning as a child has caused actual brain injury, Madden says in his affidavit.

“The locus of her injury appears to be primarily in cognitive and behavioral symptoms consistent with injury to the right hemisphere,” he said. “This may also be a factor in what at times appears to be a lack of emotional responsiveness but is in fact only the lack of expression (flat affect).”

They also argue a lifetime of abuse and trauma made her compliant to the officers.

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“The dynamics of her interrogation mirrored the abuse and neglect she suffered throughout her life,” the motion claims.

Joseph Pilkington is Brittany Pilkington’s husband. He was convicted of sexual imposition for having a sexual relationship with her beginning when she was a teenager after he lived in her home as a stepfather-figure while dating her mother.

He was ordered to pay a $250 fine and register as a tier-one sex offender for 15 years, according to court records. A 60-day jail sentence was suspended and credit given for the 21 days he’s already served. Joseph Pilkington, who is on probation, couldn’t be reached for comment.

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As part of his assessment, Fradkin performed an Adverse Childhood Experience interview in which Brittany Pilkington was asked how many of 10 indicators she’d experienced. They include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, witnessing physical abuse, living with someone with mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction, and experiencing divorce or abandonment.

Brittany Pilkington scored a 9 out of 10, which Fradkin said was “extremely high,” and put her at greater risk to develop a range of adult problems.

In her answers, Brittany Pilkington alleged she was physically abused by Joseph Pilkington, including choking, throwing her to the floor and slapping, according to the motion.

She said she has a fear of pools but he allegedly would throw her in and laugh, including once while she was pregnant, according to the lawsuit.

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She claims his alleged sexual abuse of her began when she was 9 or 10, according to the motion, when he showed her pornography while he was babysitting. It progressed to touching and then allegedly to rape when she was in junior high school, according to her answers in Fradkin’s affidavit.

“Way over 100 times he raped me,” she is quoted in Fradkin’s sworn statement. “From the seventh grade, even when we were married.”

Her uncle Jeff Skaggs said he was shocked by the allegations in the affidavit, but believes they’re probably true.

“I can’t say definitely it did (happen),” he said. “We had some idea but it’s what’s going on behind closed doors.”

He and other family members had attempted to voice their concerns about the living situation when Brittany Pilkington was young but he alleged they were ignored.

He acknowledged that she was diagnosed with lead poisoning and no follow up was taken to fix the situation.

“It’s a sad situation,” Skaggs said. The death of his three great-nephews was the end result of all of it, he said.

“I know that she needs to answer for what she’s done,” he said. “We still love her, we still care for her.”

He believes Joe Pilkington should bear more responsibility for his actions, Skaggs said.

“He should be in prison for a long, long time,” Skaggs said.

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