WATCH: California Mom Admits To Drowning Three Children 'To Protect Them'

A California woman is claiming she drowned her three children in an effort to keep them away from their father amid a custody battle.

During an exclusive interview with KGET-TV from the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility in Kern County, Liliana Carrillo, 30, admitted to drowning her children because she believed she was preventing them from "being tortured and abused on a regular basis."

“I drowned them ... I didn’t want them to be further abused,”Carrillo said. “I promised them when they were born that I was going to protect them.”
“I hugged them and I kissed them and I was apologizing the whole time,” Carillo added. “I loved my kids.”
“I wish my kids were alive, yes,” Carillo said. “Do I wish that I didn’t have to do that? Yes. But I prefer them not being tortured and abused on a regular basis for for the rest of their lives.”

The children -- Joanna Denton Carrillo, 3; Terry Carrillo, 2; and 6-month-old Sierra Carrillo -- were all found dead by their maternal grandmother in her Reseda apartment on Saturday (April 10.)

Liliana Carrillo was arrested in relation to the incident about 200 miles north of the scene hours later.

Carrillo, who cried several times during the nearly half-hour interview, claims she drove north intending to commit suicide by driving off a cliff but the vehicle became stuck in a ditch.

She said she then took the vehicle from people who attempted to help her get out of the ditch, though she pleaded not guilty in a Kern County courtroom to four felony counts of carjacking, attempted carjacking and auto theft.

Carrillo has not been charged in relation to the deaths of her children as the incident is still pending further investigation in Los Angeles County.

Police haven't disclosed a motive for the killings prior to her confession to KGET-TV, but court filings acknowledged a bitter custody dispute between Carrillo and Erik Denton, the father of the children.

The children were staying with their mother prior to the incident. Denton petitioned a court for custody on March 1, fearing for the children's safety and claiming Carrillo was delusional and had taken the children and refused to tell him where they were.

Carrillo responded by filing a restraining order against Denton, claiming he was an alcoholic who may have abused their eldest child.

Denton's court filings claim Carrillo experienced post-partum depression following the birth of their second child and that she initially went to therapy but quit.

Carrillo was also accused of self-medicating with marijuana and, in texts and social media posts, was reported to have said things like "I wish I never had kids" and threatened suicide.

Denton also accused Carrillo of claiming she was "solely responsible" for the COVID-19 pandemic and believed their former home of Porterville -- where they lived until the end of February -- was the location of a "giant sex trafficking ring."

Carrillo admitted to having dealt with depression, anxiety and PTSD her whole life, as well as having sought therapy for post-partum depression during the interview with KGET-TV, but contended that her husband posed a threat to the children's safety.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.

Photo: Los Angeles Police Department/Los Angeles Daily News