A California woman says she drowned her three children to keep them away from their father, the Associated Press reports

During a jailhouse interview, 30-year-old Liliana Carrillo told the Bakersfield, California NBC affiliate that she killed her children to protect them from their father’s abuse. 

“I drowned them,” she said. “I did it as softly, I don’t know how to explain it, but I hugged them and I kissed them and I was apologizing the whole time. I loved my kids.”

Carrillo and the children’s father, Erik Denton, had been embroiled in a bitter custody battle. Denton explained in court papers that the children weren’t safe with Carrilo because she was “increasingly delusional” and had taken the children without telling him where they were. Carrillo fired back by filing a restraining order against Denton, claiming that he was an alcoholic who sexually abused their oldest daughter. 

In February, 3-year-old Joanna fell on her groin area during an outing at the park. After complaining that she was hurt, Carrillo started to believe that her daughter was being sexually abused by her father. She took Joanna to the doctor, but physicians found no evidence of abuse. Yet, she claimed inree court documents that the exam wasn’t thorough enough and the children remained in her custody.

On Sunday, the bodies of Joanna, her 2-year-old brother, Terry, and 6-month-old sister, Sierra were found near Carrillo’s mother’s apartment in Los Angeles. Carrillo was arrested later that day, nearly 200 miles north in Tulare County. She explained in the interview that she had been driving north with the intention of driving off a cliff to kill herself. When her  car got stuck in a ditch, she stole the vehicle of some people who had stopped to help her. 

Despite admitting to the crimes in the interview, Carrillo pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of carjacking, attempted carjacking, and auto theft on Wednesday. She has yet to be charged with the deaths of her children.