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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The parents of three boys whose mother is suspected of suffocating them rejected the state's care plan for the family earlier this year, according to records released Thursday shedding light on the state's inability to refer the couple for psychological assessments.
Joseph and Brittany Pilkington refused to sign a copy of the June 12 plan crafted by Logan County Children's Services for their 3-year-old daughter and baby son. The agency had temporary custody of the children after launching a neglect investigation a month earlier following the death of the couple's 4-year-old son in April and a baby brother the previous July.
The couple's refusal to sign the plan meant the agency had much less information going into an August court hearing, after which a judge returned the daughter and the baby son, said Melanie Engle, the agency's executive director.
"We would have had a lot more information to work with this family, to know if there were mental health concerns," Engle said Thursday.
The baby, 3-month-old Noah, was found dead Aug. 18 in the couple's apartment in Bellefontaine, in western Ohio.
Brittany Pilkington, who's 23 years old, has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder in her sons' deaths and faces the possibility of a death sentence if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail on $1 million bond.
Authorities say she confessed to the three killings the day Noah was found dead, saying she was jealous of the attention her husband paid to their sons but not to her and their daughter.
Messages were left on Thursday for the attorneys who represented each parent at a three-day custody hearing earlier this month. A judge ordered the children returned to the parents at the end of that hearing, ruling there wasn't concrete evidence the first two boys were killed. The judge has declined to comment.
The child welfare agency also didn't find concerns about either parent's thought process or health, according to the case plan, and no concerns about domestic violence in the house.
"Strengths for Brittany are cognitive or physical abilities, physical health, no known history of domestic violence, no known history of substance abuse," the plan said.
Prosecutor William Goslee has alleged Joseph Pilkington, who's 20 years older than his wife, was a controlling husband who kept her isolated. Joseph Pilkington also is the ex-boyfriend of his wife's mother and lived in their house as a stepfather figure until he and Brittany became involved when she was 17, Goslee said.
Joseph Pilkington has not returned messages seeking comment. He is not a suspect in the boys' deaths.
The couple was maintaining the family home, and Joseph Pilkington was working full time, the plan said. A lot of that information is typically self-reported and corroborated later by referrals for evaluation, Engle said.
"Those referrals would have assisted us in determining if there were cognitive issues with either mom or dad," she said.
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