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On March 7, 2002, the defense rests in the trial of Andrea Yates, a 37-year-old Texas woman who confessed to killing her five young children by drowning them in a bathtub. Less than a week later, on March 13, Yates was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; however, her conviction was later reversed.
She was born Andrea Pia Kennedy on July 2, 1964, in Houston, Texas, and married Russell Yates on April 17, 1993. The couple's first child, Noah, was born in February 1994. Three more boys followed, in 1995, 1997 and February 1999. Later that year, Yates attempted suicide twice and was diagnosed with psychosis and postpartum depression. She was also advised not to have any more children; however, in November 2000, she gave birth to a daughter. Several months later, she had another breakdown and was hospitalized.
After her husband, a NASA employee, left for work on the morning of June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub of the family's suburban Houston home. Afterward, she called 911 and then phoned her husband to tell him he needed to return home immediately. Police found the body of the Yates' oldest son Noah, age 7, face-down in the tub. Yates had placed the bodies of her four younger children—John, 5, Luke, 3, Paul, 2, and Mary, 6 months—next to each other on a bed and covered them with a sheet. She confessed her actions to police and later made statements that she heard voices and believed she was saving her children's souls by killing them.
At her 2002 trial, Yates' attorneys argued that she was insane, while the prosecution charged she failed to meet Texas's definition of insanity because she was able to tell right from wrong. After deliberating for less than four hours, a jury found Yates guilty, rejecting her insanity defense, and she was sentenced to life in prison. In 2005, a Texas appeals court reversed the conviction and granted Yates a new trial after it was learned that prosecution witness Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, gave erroneous testimony that had influenced the jury. On July 26, 2006, a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity. Since that time, she has been committed to a state mental hospital in Texas. Russell Yates was supportive of his wife in the aftermath of the murders, blaming her behavior on severe mental illness and also criticizing her doctors for failing to properly treat her condition. In turn, he was criticized for being controlling and for leaving his wife unsupervised at the time she killed their children, when he had been advised not to do so. Russell Yates filed for divorce in 2004 and remarried two years later.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: