Otherworldly

A loving mother drowned her children. It's hard to believe no one could stop her.

Owmby attacked Dora for her use of the word "catatonic." She had never mentioned that in her initial interview with investigators, he said. Hadn't she told a friend that Andrea was better?

Dora was the one who caught Andrea filling up a tub of water about two months before June 20 and asked her what she was doing. "I'm going to need it," Andrea replied. In her statement to police, Andrea said she meant to kill the children that day, but something stopped her. On June 20 she knew she had about an hour between the time her husband left for work and her mother-in-law arrived.

If you thought Andrea was so sick, why didn't you take her to a different doctor? Owmby hammered. Dora had been coming in each morning around 8:15, and staying till 5:30 or six at night. Why had she decided to come in later in the day?

As Andrea Yates descended deeper into psychosis, she was convinced her children were doomed.
David Terrill
As Andrea Yates descended deeper into psychosis, she was convinced her children were doomed.
As Andrea Yates descended deeper into psychosis, she was convinced her children were doomed.
David Terrill
As Andrea Yates descended deeper into psychosis, she was convinced her children were doomed.

Finally, Dora confessed that she was just worn out. "Around Memorial Day I started coming in a little later and leaving a little earlier. I was exhausted. I needed to pace myself."


Rusty Yates was locked out of his own house. He'd had the call from his wife. His kids were dead and his wife was being held in the case. Officer Frank Stumpo, while not allowing Rusty in, offered to get him a drink of water. As he turned to go into the house, Stumpo testified, Rusty "stated to me I'd be lucky to find clean glasses around."

A shot at his wife's housekeeping at a time like this? Rusty Yates has suffered an incredible tragedy. But don't overlook his no-small-part in the events leading up to this.

Or as one fiftyish courtroom watcher put it last week to the Metro trolley driver taking him down to 301 San Jacinto, "No, I'm not watching the Yates trial. Unless her husband's on trial with her, it's not a real trial."

The Yateses had five children in their eight years of marriage. Although she'd been a good student at Milby High School and held a nursing degree and worked at M.D. Anderson hospital, after her first baby, Andrea became a stay-at-home mom.

They lived in a house at first, but they later moved into a converted Greyhound bus. Packed in all day with the toddlers, she became pregnant again. What followed was a bout of postpartum depression with Luke. That didn't stop the baby train, though. Andrea became pregnant with Mary.

Andrea tried to kill herself twice, once with a knife to her throat (Rusty was able to get it away from her) and once by overdosing on her father's medication (she got her stomach pumped on that one). She grew increasingly depressed after her father's death.

While Rusty went to work each day at NASA, she stayed home with the kids with next to no interaction with adults. They never hired a baby-sitter, so time to herself was simply not in Andrea's life.

The couple, although religious, were further isolated because they belonged to no local church. They did family Bible readings at home. Discipline was strict, and people who knew the family described the children as extremely well behaved.

Rusty did take her for mental health treatment, but switched from Spring Shadows Glen, where she had seemed to improve, to the Devereux Texas Treatment Network in League City because the latter was closer to home. At the end of her second stay in Devereux, no one in the family thought Andrea was ready to get out, but the ten-day limit from the insurance company meant it was time to go. It hardly seems like a better recipe for disaster could exist.

Rusty Yates was giving media interviews almost immediately after the tragedy. He eulogized his children at their funeral, talking about the joyous moments in their lives. If you missed the funeral, you can still watch it. It's on the Web site he created, yateskids.com, which offers photos and film clips from their home movies, complete with audio. You can hear the music at the funeral and see scenes of Rusty crying.

He still lives in the same house where his children were killed.

Dora Yates described her daughter-in-law as "a very gentle person and a very loving person. She is a very creative person with the children. I always said she and Rusty were very lucky to have found each other."

Were they really?


Andrea Yates told police Sergeant Eric Mehl that she drowned her children not because she was mad at them, but because she had realized she had not been a good mother and she was going to be punished. "They weren't developing correctly."

She filled a bathtub with water about three inches from the top and put in three-year-old Paul, facedown. He struggled, died and she pulled him from the water and took him to the master bedroom, where she laid him on the bed. She repeated the scene with two-year-old Luke and five-year-old John.

Mary was in the bathroom through all of this, sitting in a baby seat as her brothers were killed in front of her. She was crying. Andrea put her in the water, drowned her and left her there, calling for Noah.

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