Wisconsin mother accused of killing 8-year-old because of Ukraine war

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Natalia Aleksandrovna Hitchcock told police she feared the Russian government was about to kidnap and torture her children.

Unable to bear that fate, she told them she suffocated her 8-year-old because she “did not want him to be abused,” according to court documents.

Hitchcock, 41, is now charged with first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly strangling the 8-year-old, Oliver, and trying to drown her other son last week inside their home in Sheboygan Falls, Wis. She faces a life sentence if convicted of the first charge and up to a 60-year sentence on the second.

Hitchcock’s attorneys in the state public defender’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, one of them told a judge she worried Hitchcock may not be fit to stand trial and asked for professionals to evaluate her mental competence, a request the judge granted.

Sheboygan Falls police — after interviewing Hitchcock, her husband and their 11-year-old son — described in court documents a mother who unraveled in the weeks after Russia, her native country, invaded Ukraine. As the war raged, investigators said Hitchcock’s mental state deteriorated. She believed the Kremlin was about to steal her children and suspected her husband was selling them to strangers on the Internet, according to court records — even as she urged him to prepare for a possible attack on their Wisconsin town of some 8,200 residents.

Hitchcock’s husband of 15 years, and father of their two children, told police that his wife was fine before Russia invaded Ukraine. She didn’t do drugs, rarely drank and hadn’t been diagnosed with any mental health conditions.

But he started to worry about his wife’s mental state after Russia attacked in late February and the ensuing war “amped up” Hitchcock, according to court documents. She started drinking lots of vodka, hearing voices and experiencing “surges of rage,” in which she became violent, he told police.

Around March 25 — a month into the war — the situation devolved further, the husband told police. Hitchcock thought that social workers would take her children and that people suspected she was a Russian spy, court records state. She told police she struggled to sleep and concentrate.

Hitchcock allegedly got angry when she couldn’t book a flight to visit her parents in Russia around that time. She wanted her husband to stay home from work and stock up on guns, knives and survival gear, including a camping stove and fuel, according to court records. He bought the stove and fuel, along with extra food “to make her feel safe,” he told police, but said no to the weapons.

Hitchcock gave her own account to police, telling them she feared she’d been poisoned and that someone was controlling her mind. She said she was experiencing a “brain fog,” according to police, and worried the Russian government was going to kidnap and abuse her children.

Hitchcock said she thought about killing herself until she realized that would leave her sons unprotected, according to court documents.

“That was when she thought to herself that she was going to, ‘End his suffering with my hands,’ ” police wrote in the complaint.

On March 29, Hitchcock allegedly told her 11-year-old son to stick his head under the water in the family’s bathtub to see how long he could hold his breath. When he did, he told police he felt his mother’s hands on the back of his head “pushing him down.” But the boy was able to fight his way out of her grasp and flee the bathroom. When she grabbed a knife near the kitchen, he started screaming until she put it away and hugged him, the complaint states.

Hitchcock told police she didn’t mean to drown her 11-year-old. But, fearing Russians would torture the children, Hitchcock said her youngest son wouldn’t be able to defend himself, according to court records.

So, a day later, she “placed both hands around [Oliver’s] neck and squeezed as hard as she could until [he] stopped breathing,” police said in court documents.

Then, she grabbed a knife and started stabbing herself in the chest to “cut her heart,” police said.

The 11-year-old told police he went into the room he shared with his little brother to find his mother lying on the bed, armed with “a big knife.” As he looked around, he spotted Oliver on the floor under a sheet and “started screaming very loudly,” police said.

His father, who had been taking a nap on the couch, heard the screams and came running, court records say. He tried to save Oliver and called 911. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and later transferred to one in Milwaukee, where he died on April 1.

Hitchcock, who only suffered “a small puncture wound to the chest,” was also taken to a hospital, where an emergency room nurse reported to police “a critical amount” of Tylenol in her system, according to the complaint. After doctors discharged her the next day, she was taken to the county jail, where she remains in custody on a $1 million bond.

The husband was at a Tuesday court hearing, WITI reported. As officers escorted Hitchcock out of the courtroom, she tried to talk to family members in the gallery.

“I love you, okay. I’m so, so sorry,” she said, according to the station. “I don’t know what’s happened.”