A Wisconsin woman with Russian heritage who is charged in the strangulation of her 8-year-old son was growing increasingly paranoid and erratic about the war in Ukraine, authorities said.
Natalia Aleksandrovna Hitchcock, 41, of Sheboygan Falls, is alleged to have choked her youngest son unconscious on March 30, causing fatal injuries.
Hitchcock is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
The boy who died Friday is Oliver Hitchcock, Sheboygan Falls police said in a statement.
Oliver's father and a second child were present at the family’s apartment during the attack, police said.
The complaint says Hitchcock confessed to investigators that she strangled her youngest boy and that she held her 11-year-old son’s head under water in a bathtub and stabbed herself in the chest.
The names of the children and their father are not provided in the criminal complaint; instead, they were referred to as Victim 1, Victim 2 and Witness 1.
Witness 1 told an officer the war in Ukraine appeared to be taking a toll on the mental health of Hitchcock, who the complaint says has Russian roots. Witness 1 said Hitchcock did not have any previously diagnosed mental illnesses.
“Hitchcock’s mother lived in Russia and ... Witness 1 was worried about Hitchcock’s mental state of mind as she watched TV with the war between Russia and Ukraine,” the complaint says.
“He added that within the last prior few days Hitchcock also wanted to buy survival gear such as a camping stove and fuel and also wanted to buy knives and guns. He said no to the knives and guns, but did go and purchase extra food as well as a camping stove and fuel with Hitchcock to make her feel safe," according to the complaint.
"He advised that Hitchcock also complained that she could not book a flight to Russia to see her parents, which made her angry," it says. "He said that he felt the war between Russia and Ukraine amped up Hitchcock more than ever and that she started to drink alcohol."
Attempts to reach a lawyer who may be representing Hitchcock were unsuccessful Wednesday. She was listed as an inmate in the county jail.
NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee reported Hitchcock was held on $1 million bond in an initial appearance in court Tuesday.
According to the complaint, Hitchcock waived her Miranda rights and admitted to violently attacking her children and stabbing herself with a knife.
She also told a detective that for the previous five days, she had been unable to concentrate and that she felt her kids were going to be taken away from her, it says.
“She also said that people had been looking at her strange and felt that people looked at her as a Russian spy,” the complaint says. She added that she was worried “people from the dark web were going to take her kids away and do bad things to them,” it says.
Hitchcock also told police she believed the Russian government was going to take her children and abuse them and that she choked her youngest child because he was the “most vulnerable.”
Hitchcock also said she dunked her oldest son under bathwater only to scare him and noted that the boy was bigger and that it would be difficult for her to kill him, according to the complaint.
The eldest sibling told an investigator that his mother “did not want them to have a bad death and that she tried to kill them by giving them a peaceful death," according to the complaint.
The older boy woke his father up from a nap, saying his brother was dead, the complaint says. The boy’s father performed CPR on the child before first responders arrived, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Hitchcock and her husband have been married for 15 years.
Eric Hitchcock, 51, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is Oliver’s uncle and the brother of the boys’ father. He said Wednesday that the family is still trying to come to grips with what occurred, especially because she had never been violent toward her children.
“She loved her kids,” Eric Hitchcock said. “Oliver will be missed tremendously. His dad loved him, and he’s really having a hard time moving on from this. Oliver and his brother were best friends, and it’s just devastating to the family.”
He said his brother called his wife’s parents in Russia on Tuesday and spoke to them through a translator.
Her father, who is a “strong Russian,” Eric Hitchcock said, was devastated.
“He never shows emotion — he broke down in tears."
In a GoFundMe campaign, Eric Hitchcock wrote that the children’s father is a truck driver who is suddenly dealing with life as a single parent.
“No one should suffer at the hands of a parent — the person whose job it is to protect a child and keep him from harm. With no history of aggression or abuse, we are left with nothing but questions as to why and how this could happen,” he wrote.
WTMJ reported that as Hitchcock was being escorted out of the courtroom Tuesday, she looked at her husband and said: “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened."