One June morning in Texas, Andrea Yates fills up the bathtub in her suburban home. Then, one by one, she holds each of her five children under the water until they drown. She is subsequently deemed to be insane and moved to a mental institution to live out her days.
Andrea was born on July 2, 1964, in Hallsville, a small city in the east of Texas. The daughter of a German immigrant mother and a father of Irish descent, she was the youngest of five kids. Unfortunately, she had a troubled youth and suffered from bulimia and depression during her teenage years.
At the age of 17 Andrea’s problems had become so severe that she even contemplated suicide. She was nevertheless a promising student and was part of the National Honors Society. Andrea was also the captain of her high school swim team, as well as going on to become her class valedictorian.
After studying at the University of Texas School of Nursing, Andrea was employed as a nurse at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Then, in 1989 she met and fell in love with Russell Yates, known as Rusty. And four years later the pair married, before moving to Friendswood, TX.
As adherents of the Christian Quiverfull movement, Andrea and Rusty were committed to having as many children as nature would allow. In February 1994 they welcomed their first child, a son named Noah. Soon after, Rusty found a new job and moved the family to Seminole, Florida.
There, Andrea gave birth to two more sons, named John and Paul. Moving back to Houston, the family started living in a motor-home. However, their lives were soon to be thrown into disarray by Andrea’s deteriorating mental health. After the couple’s fourth child, Luke, was born, Andrea subsequently began suffering from depression.
In June 1999 Andrea attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills. And although she was later released from hospital, shortly afterwards she again tried to take her own life. As a result, she was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, and her condition appeared to improve. Around the same time, the family moved out of their motor-home and into a small house.
Sadly, however, the following month Andrea suffered a breakdown and attempted suicide twice more. Suspecting that her condition was linked to the birth of her children, doctors diagnosed her with postpartum psychosis. Concerned for Andrea, her psychiatrist advised her against becoming pregnant again.
Yet despite this advice, Andrea soon fell pregnant for the fifth time. Worryingly, she stopped taking her medication and gave birth to a daughter, Mary, in November 2000. At first, she appeared to be dealing with the pressures of a newborn baby. But when her father died the following March she was sent spiraling into depression once again.
On May 3, 2001, Andrea descended into an almost catatonic state. For reasons that remain unclear, she ran a bath in the middle of the day. Had she intended to kill herself, or did she have something even more sinister in mind? While disaster did not ensue that day, the worst was still to come.
By June 2001 Rusty had been instructed by psychiatrist Mohammed Saeed not to leave Andrea alone with their children. On June 20, however, Rusty left the family’s home in Clear Lake City and went to work. Apparently, his mother was due to arrive at the house in an hour’s time to help Andrea out.
Tragically, an hour was all that Andrea needed to kill their children. After again filling the bathtub with water, she drowned her three youngest sons and laid their bodies out on a bed. She then did the same to the infant Mary, leaving her corpse floating in the water.
At that point the eldest child, Noah, tried to run away. Andrea caught up with him, however, and subjected him to the same fate. Afterwards, she left his body in the tub, placing Mary’s corpse with those of her brothers on the bed. And Andrea then picked up the telephone and called the police.
After requesting that an officer be sent to the house, Andrea subsequently called Rusty and asked him to come home. But by the time that help arrived, it was too late – the five children were already dead. And although Andrea confessed to the killings, it would still be some time before a verdict could be reached.
George Parnham, a family friend of the Yates, acted as Andrea’s defense attorney in court. But despite his attempts to prove her innocence on the grounds of insanity, the jury disagreed. In March 2002 she was consequently found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
That was just the beginning of a long and complicated legal saga, however. The month after Andrea’s sentencing, her family lodged an official complaint regarding her treatment by Dr. Saeed. They claimed that his decision to prescribe “excessive” medication had indirectly contributed to the children’s deaths.
Then, in January 2005 it emerged that Dr. Park Dietz, a witness for the prosecution in Andrea’s original trial, had given false testimony that may have influenced the jury’s decision. So a year later a new trial began. The defense again attempted to plead insanity of Andrea’s behalf.
This time around, Andrea was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and committed to the North Texas State Hospital, a mental facility in Vernon, TX. Then in January 2007 she was relocated to a facility some 320 miles away in Kerrville, TX, where she remains to this day.
And to the shock of some, Andrea’s current home is a low-security facility, without bars on the windows or armed guards. She spends her days there making crafts such as cards and aprons, selling them anonymously online. Any money that she makes is donated to Parnham’s Yates Children Memorial Fund, a charity that works to raise awareness of women’s mental health.
In August 2004 Rusty filed for divorce, pointing out that he and Andrea were no longer living as husband and wife. In a 2015 interview with Oprah Winfrey, however, he announced that he bore no ill feelings towards the woman who murdered his children. “Forgiveness kind of implies that I have ever really blamed her,” he said. “In some sense I’ve never really blamed her because I’ve always blamed her illness.”