Andrea Yates drowned her five children in their bathtub on June 20, 2001. She had severe postpartum depression, postpartum pychosis, and schizophrenia. At the age of 17, she even spoke to a friend about suicide.
Andrea Yates was born in Hallsville, Texas. She was the youngest of the five children in the family. Andrea suffered from bulimia during her teenage years. She also suffered from depression and even talked to one of her friends about suicide.
Andrea graduated from Milby High School in 1982 and was the class valedictorian, captain of the swim team, and an officer in the National Honor Society.
The Family Lived in a Converted Bus For A While
The family lived in a converted bus for some time, but unlike most couples, Andrea and her husband, Rusty, rejected the normal life. They moved from a suburban house to a converted bus with their children.
Andrea’s husband left the “bus house” everyday for work, while she was just left with her children in the confined space. She home-schooled her children in the small “bus house” and with no time to herself, it added pressure to her and wasn’t great for her mental health, which was already unstable because of postpartum depression.
The couple moved to a proper house after the fourth child was born but nothing imporved Andrea’s mental condition.
Andrea was admitted to mental institutions four times in two years.
Andrea suffered her first mental breakdown in 1999 after the birth of her fourth child, Luke. In the same year, she purposely overdosed on depression medication and wound up in the psychiatric unit of a Methodist hospital.
She attempted suicide again the next month and was taken to Memorial Spring Shadows Glen Hospital. Andrea was put on Haldon, an antipsychotic medication, which seemed to work because she went two years without trying to kill herself and her children.
But all that changed after the birth of her fifth child, Mary, in 2001. Her mental state started to become worse. She was admitted to Devereux Texas Treatment Network twice in early 2001, and she was again placed on a regimen of antipsychotics.
Andrea’s father also died in 2001, which might have some connection to her mental state.
They were told to stop having children
Andrea Yates and her husband were warned about having more children. Andrea would have to stop her medications, and the after-effects of pregnancy would cause her depression once again. Despite the warnings from the doctors, Andrea stopped taking her medication and became pregnant with a fifth child.
Her husband denied her mental illness, and he believed that “demons” caused all of her problems. He believed that another child would scare away these demons?
Andrea was not supposed to be left alone with kids
Andrea’s psychiatrist warned Rusty Yates to never leave his wife alone with the children because she might do something despicable. But Rusty ignored the psychiatrist’s advice and left Andrea on her own for hours.
He claimed that he didn’t want Andrea to rely on him and he wanted her to become more independent.
The psychiatrist took her off medications 16 days before she drowned her children.
Andrea Yates started seeing the psychiatrist Mohammed Saeed during her treatment. Saeed prescribed her Haldol and other antipsychotics. Even though she was having delusions, Saeed took her off the drug 16 days before she committed the ghastly murders.
According to Andrea’s husband’s testimony, his wife’s mental health got even worse, but Saeed still refused to give her Haldol again and even admitted her to inpatient psychiatric treatment.
Drowning her children
At the time of the murders, Yates’ family was living in a Houston suburb, Clear Lake City. She continued under Dr. Saeed’s care until June 20, 2001, when Rusty left for work, leaving her alone with the children against the instruction of Dr. Saeed, who advised her to supervise her around the clock.
Rusty’s mother was supposed to arrive one hour after he left and take care of her. But in the space of that one hour, she drowned all of her children.
She started with John, Paul and Luke, and then laid them in her bed. She then drowned Mary, when she left floating in the tub. Noah came in and asked what was wrong with Mary. Noah tried to run away from his mother, but was soon caught and Andrea drowned him.
After drowning all of her children she called the police repeatedly saying she needed an officer but would not say why. Then she called her husband, telling her to come home right away.
Trial of Andrea Yates
Andrea confessed to drowning her children. Prior to her second trial, she told Dr. Michael Welner that she waited for her husband to leave for work that morning. She even filled the tank after her husband left for work as he would prevent her from harming them.
To drown the children, Andrea first locked the dog, Welner, in a cage to prevent it from interfering, who was normally allowed to run free around the house.
Rusty got a family friend to be an attorney for Andrea. The defense expert testimony agreed that Andra was psychotic. But Texas law requires that in order to successfully assert the insanity defense, the defendant must prove that he or she could not discern right from wrong at the time of the crime.
The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Andrea Yates guilty in March 2002. But the jury also refused the death penalty option sought by the prosecution.
The trial court sentenced her to life imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice with eligibility for parole in 40 years.
“Law And Order” episode was responsible?
On January 6, 2005, a Texas Court of Appeals reversed the convictions, because a California psychiatrist and prosecution witness Dr. Park Dietz admitted that he had given materially false testimony during the trial.
Dr. Dietz stated that shortly before the murders an episode of Law and Order had aired which featured a woman who drowned her children as was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity.
An author and Yale University lecturer, Susanna O’Malley, who was covering the story of The Oprah Magazine, and NBC News. She was also the writer for Law and Order and immediately reported that no such episode existed.
She was right that no such episode aired before she drowned her children, in fact, “Magnificat,” the episode based in part on Yate’s case, was aired in 2004, but the murders were committed in 2001.
Andrea Yates was found not Guilty
The appellate court held unanimously that the jury might have been influenced by Dr. Dietz’s false memory and therefore requested a new trial.
On January 9, 2006, Andrea Yates again pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. She was granted release on bail on only one condition that she be admitted to a mental health treatment facility on February 1.
Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity on July 26, 2006, by the state of Texas. She was thereafter committed to North Texas Hospital-Vernon Campus.
She was later moved to Kerrville State Hospital, a low-security mental facility in Kerrville, Texas.
However, psychiatrists for both Texas’s state prosecutors and her defense lawyers agreed that she was severely mentally ill and suffering from one of several psychotic diseases at the time she killed her children.
The state of Texas claimed that she was aware of her actions as right or wrong despite her mental defect. The prosecution, however, added spousal-revenge as a motive for the killings, despite the conclusion of defense experts that there was no evidence to support such a motive.
The jury also believed that she was legally aware of her actions, but they also disagreed that her decision to drown her children was spousal revenge.
Andrea’s mother blamed Rusty.
Karin Kennedy, Andrea’s mother criticized Rusty during the trial, she stated that the husband never helped out at home and considered child care and cleaning to be solely the wife’s responsibility.
According to Ranke, she claimed:
“When they came to my house, that was the first time I told Rusty, ‘Luke needs changing,’ He says ‘well that’d be a first. I have never changed a diaper before.’ And that was the fourth child. I was horrified.”
She then went on to discuss how Rusty’s lack of understanding made things even more difficult for Andrea.
Rusty filed for divorce in 2004, stating that he and Andrea had not lived together as a married couple since the day of the murder. Rusty was granted divorce on March 17, 2005. Rusty began dating his second wife. The couple had a son from the marriage, but Laura Arnold, his wife, filed for divorce in 2015.
Negative influence on the family
An itinerant preacher whom Rusty had met while attending Auburn University would later become his family’s religious idol. The couple tried to emulate Woroniecki’s way of life and listened to all of his commands. The man preached that everyone was hell-bound and the couple were devout.
Andrea’s weak mental state left her vulnerable and she believed Woroniecki’s pronouncement wholly when she killed her children, she thought that she was saving them from life in hell.
But the couple has rejected the accusations against Michael Woroniecki.
While in prison, Andrea Yates stated that she had considered killing the children for two years, adding that they thought she was not a good mother and claiming that her sons were developing improperly.
She even told the jail psychiatrist, “It was the seventh deadly sin.” My children weren’t righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them, they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell. “
In an interview, Rusty stated to the media that he was never told by psychiatrists that his wife was psychotic nor that she could harm the children, and had he known otherwise, he would never have had more children. “If I’d known she was psychotic, we’d never have even considered having more kids.“
Rusty stays in touch with Andrea.
In an interview in 2008, Rusty spoke about keeping in touch with his ex-wife. They send emails to each other and occasionally speak over the phone. Rusty shares pictures of his new family with her, including images of his young son, Mark.
Andrea Yates Now
Andrea Yates had been a patient at Kerrville since 2007, and according to her doctor, even though her mental health is stabilized, the patient waives her review hearing every single year.
The review hearing is the first step towards getting released, but perhaps Yates isn’t ready to return to the world.