CRIME

Mental exam ordered for Indiana mom who suffocated her kids

A judge on Monday ordered a mental competency exam for an Indiana woman who pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the suffocation deaths of her two children last year and still faces charges in the fatal shooting of a neighbor.

Amber Pasztor, of Fort Wayne, tried to waive her rights to an attorney and to plead guilty to murder in the slaying of 66-year-old Frank Macomber last September. However, the Allen County judge ordered her to undergo a mental competency exam and entered a temporary plea of not guilty on her behalf.

Last month, an Elkhart County judge ordered the 30-year-old Pasztor to receive mental health treatment by before beginning a 130-year sentence for killing her children, 7-year-old Lilliana Hernandez and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor.

Pasztor abducted the kids on Sept. 26 from their custodial grandparents' home, leading authorities to issue an Amber Alert. Her children's bodies were found later that day inside Macomber's stolen car, which was parked behind the police department in Elkhart, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Fort Wayne. Pasztor had flagged down an officer and showed him the bodies.

According to court documents, she told officers she drove the children around northern Indiana and southern Michigan, taking them to a park and a restaurant before smothering them with her hands.

According to Indiana Department of Child Services records released by a juvenile court, Pasztor killed her children because she felt they were being threatened with violence by members of a Mexican cartel. Those records also say she suffered from untreated bipolar disorder.

Pasztor told police that she shot Macomber with a hunting rifle he bought for her, and she gave officers directions to the spot where she had buried him under a tent that they had bought Sept. 25, according to court documents.

Pasztor told investigators she killed Macomber to "send a message to the 'cartels' not to mess with her," the court documents state. "The defendant stated that she knew Frank was setting her up to the cartels."

The children's father, Rene Hernandez, 24, of Fort Wayne, was found dead in a wooded area in neighboring Whitley County in June 2010. His body had been frozen and cut into two pieces, police said. That slaying has never been solved.