During a jailhouse interview late last year, Amber Hilberling told talk show host Phil McGraw that she was pregnant and trying to protect herself when she unintentionally pushed her 23-year-old husband through an apartment window in 2011.
Her husband, Josh Hilberling, fell to his death from the 25th floor of their high-rise apartment in Tulsa.
“He reached out and grabbed me. And I was pregnant. And he didn’t care,” Hilberling, who was convicted of second-degree murder, told McGraw during the interview for “Dr. Phil,” according to the Tulsa World. She told the celebrity psychologist that when her husband grabbed her, “I pushed him off me. The window wasn’t supposed to happen.”
On Monday, 25-year-old Hilberling was found dead in her prison cell at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, near Oklahoma City. A prison representative told CBS affiliate KWTV-News9 that she was found hanging in an apparent suicide.
Terri Watkins, communications director for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, told The Washington Post that Hilberling was pronounced dead about 5:30 p.m. by a facility doctor. Watkins said the medical examiner concluded that Hilberling died from asphyxiation due to hanging and ruled the death a suicide.
Watkins said the incident is still under investigation by the department’s inspector general.
After Hilberling death, her mother took to social media with a final message to her daughter.
“Fly baby girl to the angels, away from the pain on this earth,” she wrote on Facebook, according to KWTV-News9. “The media, the haters, the Hilberling’s got their wish. Hope they are happy. I will never stop fighting for the truth.”
Someone also posted a message on a Facebook page set up for Hilberling, saying, “Amber was a wonderful woman who is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father.”
Supporters asked people to respect Hilberling’s family and criticized Josh’s relatives for “choosing to say some very disrespectful, and very hurtful words right now.”
“We stand above them,” it read. “We know that the devil works through people and we refuse to allow the devil to have any part of this. We trust God and believe in Him. We will update you more once the family gives us permission to do so. At this time, please say a prayer for them.”
Josh’s parents reportedly posted a message on a memorial Facebook page for their son.
“We heard that Amber Hilberling hung herself in prison this evening,” it read. “We know how it feels to lose a child. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It’s something no parent should have to experience. Condolences to those who loved her.”
One afternoon in June 2011, Josh Hilberling’s father said his son called him in distress.
“He told me that he just couldn’t take it anymore,” Patrick Hilberling wrote in a letter to the judge before Amber Hilberling’s sentencing. “He said that he couldn’t stop her from using drugs while pregnant, and he couldn’t watch her anymore. He said that he wanted a divorce and was going to try to get custody of the baby when it was born.
“He asked me for a ride, said his bags were packed, and he was ready to leave for good.”
Patrick Hilberling said he told his son that he was at work and couldn’t get there right then.
“I would give anything if I had taken off work and gone immediately to pick him up,” he wrote. “I would give anything if I had tried harder to prevent the marriage, or help him escape the living hell he endured the last year of his life.”
Amber Hilberling’s family has disputed the claims.
After the incident, Hilberling told authorities that she and her husband had gotten into a fight — “not a fight-fight, but an argument,” according to a sentencing memorandum. She said that Josh Hilberling threw something at the window and broke it and that, when she pushed him, he fell into some candlesticks and then fell out the window, according to the court records.
One neighbor heard her screaming, “No, no, no,” then running sounds and shattering glass; another saw the young man fall — landing on his stomach on the eighth floor of a parking garage below, according to the documents.
Hilberling rode down in the elevator, running to her husband’s body and rolling him over.
When paramedics arrived, “she repeatedly asked them to fix him. She repeatedly said that she pushed her husband and he fell out the window,” according to the documents.
“Never going to get to enjoy life, marriage, kids, see his child grow up,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said about Josh Hilberling, according to KWTV-News9, “all because Amber Hilberling became his executioner.”
At trial, Hilberling said Josh grabbed her shoulders with his hands and she pushed him.
In 2013, she was convicted of her husband’s murder and sentenced to 25 years behind bars — as she and her family continued to try to share her side of the traumatic tale.
“The only think the so called evidence shows is Amber didn’t mean to push him out the window and that it was a accident,” someone wrote at the time on a Facebook page created for that purpose. “I am sorry, but the jury and judge are crazy to have found her guilty.”
The page is filled messages and photographs, showing Hilberling’s young son with — and without — his mother over the past several years.
“Happy Mother’s Day Amber!!!” someone wrote a month after her conviction. “You might not be home with your baby boy this mother’s day, but i know you will be for all the rest.”
Hilberling’s attorney, April Seibert, told KWTV-News9 that Hilberling took the conviction hard and “the reason she took it so hard is because she wanted to have a life with her son.”
In her interview with McGraw in December 2015, Hilberling told the story that she said she wished the jury had heard, claiming her 10-month marriage had been marred by domestic abuse.
“That was our relationship: Josh getting in trouble over and over again and me saying, ‘Oh, no, it’s not his fault,'” she said, according to the Tulsa World. “‘That’s my fault. I did that.’ ”
During the “Dr. Phil” episode, which aired in February, McGraw pointed to Josh Hilberling’s Air Force records, which reportedly mentioned an incident in which he threw a plate and tried to pop one of his wife’s breast implants, according to the newspaper.
Amber Hilberling said she didn’t report all of the incidents because “I loved Josh very much.”
“I stayed with him for as long as I could,” she told McGraw. “They painted me as a monster. It was breaking my heart just to have him leave. So to intend to kill somebody that you love that much, it couldn’t be plausible.”
This story, which was originally published Tuesday, has been updated.