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Mother charged with murder in deaths of children she said she was protecting from abuse

“Our hearts go out to the family of these children who are coping with this tremendous loss,” the district attorney said.

A California mother was charged with murder in the deaths of her three young children, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Liliana Carrillo, 30, was initially arrested and charged April 10 on suspicion of carjacking a motorist in Kern County. Authorities said she had fled after killing her daughters Joanna, 3, and Sierra, 6 months, and her son, Terry, 2.

The children's bodies were discovered by their grandmother in an apartment in the Reseda section of Los Angeles.

On Monday, the district attorney's office announced Carrillo was also charged with "three counts of murder with an allegation of using a knife as a deadly and dangerous weapon as to her youngest child."

“Our hearts go out to the family of these children who are coping with this tremendous loss,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “My office has reached out to the survivors to offer trauma-informed services during these incredibly difficult times.”

Carrillo said in a jailhouse interview with NBC affiliate KGET that she drowned her children to protect them.

"I wasn’t about to hand my children off to be further abused," she said, telling the outlet that she killed them "softly."

The Los Angeles County coroner has not said whether drowning was involved in the children's deaths.

Last month, the children's father, Erik Denton, filed custody records claiming that Carrillo was delusional and refused to tell him where she was keeping the children. He has denied any allegations of child abuse, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Denton tried to seek help from police and the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services because he believed Carrillo had psychosis and was keeping the children away from him, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He was supposed to visit the children the day before they were found dead, according to court records.

Carrillo pleaded not guilty to carjacking, attempting carjacking and taking a vehicle without the owner's consent, according to her public defender. She will be arraigned on the murder charges at a later date, the district attorney's office said.

Carrillo's public defender did not immediately return a request for comment.