Andrea Yates, Texas Mother Who Drowned Her Five Children
Her oldest child would have been 20 years old this year. Her youngest would have been 14, while the children in between them would be 15, 17, and 19 years old. Five children, all under the age of seven, had their lives taken in June 2001 by the hands of their own mother.
It was mid-morning on June 20, 2001 when Andrea Yates’ husband Rusty received a phone call from her. “You need to come home,” she said.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“It’s time. I did it,” Andrea said. “It’s the children.”
“Which one?” Rusty asked.
“All of them.”
An apparent victim of post-partum depression, Andrea Yates had attempted suicide two years prior and was admitted to the hospital, prescribed some antidepressants, and sent home. When she nearly sliced her neck with a knife, her husband took her back to the hospital where she was prescribed an anti-psychotic drug and sent home again. Soon, she was back to attempting suicide after a nervous breakdown. Doctors eventually figured out that she was suffering from post-partum psychosis and was advised to not have any more children. Seven weeks later, another child was conceived and born in late 2000. After confessing to almost deciding to drown her children in May 2001, her husband was ordered that he needed to be with her at all times, especially when she was around the children. On June 20, he went against that advisement and went to work leaving Andrea alone with the children. Hours later, they were dead.
There was no question that it was Andrea Yates who drowned her children when it came time for her trial, since she had confessed when she was the one who called 911 to report her children were dead. She pled not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that she was saving her children’s souls from hell by killing them now, before they could grow up and do harm to other people. Under Texas law, however, the defendant must prove to the jury that they were unable to discern right from wrong at the time of the crime in order for an insanity defense to be grounds for acquittal. Yates had locked up the family dog prior to filling the bathtub, which prosecutors allege that it showed she did not want the dog to interfere with what she was about to do to her children. She also waited until the end to drown the oldest child, whom she had made watch her drown the previous four, and while he was reported to have fought her, he managed to run away, but was chased through the house by his mother who then brought him into the bathtub. These circumstances were proof that Yates did possess discernment between right and wrong the jury decided, who did not buy into the insanity plea. Though the death penalty was on the table, she was instead sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after serving 40 years in prison.
In 2005, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the guilty verdict due to a psychiatrist witness’s false testimony during the trial. He had testified that Andrea had watched an episode of Law and Order prior to the drowning, where a mother had drowned her children and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and assumed that is where she got the idea to do the same to her children and then claim insanity to render a not guilty verdict. It was proven in the appeal that no such episode ever existed, so the court ruled to overturn the verdict assuming that this expert testimony had an influence on their verdict.
A year later, in 2006, she plead not guilty by reason of insanity for her second trial. The new jury found her not guilty and she was ordered to seek treatment in a mental hospital until she was deemed no longer a threat to herself or the rest of society.
In 2012, she had requested that she receive a “pass” to attend church for two hours a week outside of the mental hospital. Her request was denied by a judge.
Earlier this year, after being in the mental hospital for nearly a decade, her doctors reported that she is now allowed to attend group outgoings with other patients in the facility, believing she could benefit from socialization.