Five Dead Children— Andrea Yates
On the morning of June 20, 2001, mother-of-five Andrea Yates of Houston, TX, drowned all of her children one by one in her bathtub.
Shortly after her husband Rusty left for work, Andrea—who’d been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years based on suicide attempts spurred by intense postpartum psychosis—filled the bathtub with water. While her children were eating breakfast in the kitchen, she peeled them off one by one and took them into the bathroom to meet their maker.
She started with three-year-old Paul, AKA “Perfect Paul,” who was apparently her favorite because he was the “least trouble.” It took only moments to drown Paul to death. She then tucked his body in her bed and place his head on a pillow.
Next came Luke, two, who received the same treatement as Paul. And then it was five-year-old John’s turn to be drowned and carefully placed in bed next to his dead siblings.
The youngest child, six-month-old Mary, had been nursing on a bottle when her other three brothers were killed. Andrea drowned Mary next and left her floating in the tub. It was then that seven-year-old Noah, the oldest of the five children, entered the bathroom and asked what was wrong with Mary. Sensing danger, he darted away, only to be chased and captured by his mother. According to Andrea, Noah was the only of her five children to put up a struggle:
I put [Noah] in the water until he stopped breathing. I don’t know how many minutes it was or anything….When [Noah] came up out of the water and said something, but I didn’t know what it was. It was like ‘I’m sor—,’ and I didn’t hear the rest. I don’t know if he was saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ or what.
Andrea took Mary’s tiny corpse, placed it lovingly in John’s arms on the bed, and left Noah floating in the tub this time.
Within the space of an hour, all five of Andrea Yates’s children were dead.
Due to her prolonged spates of mental illness and psychotic episodes, Andrea’s husband Rusty had been warned not to leave her unsupervised. But Rusty said he felt this approach had limited Andrea’s rehabilitation, so he started leaving her unsupervised for an hour every morning and evening.
It was only going to be an hour. His mother was going to show up and watch everyone an hour after he left. And during that hour, Andrea murdered all five of their children.
When they were all dead, she dialed 911 and “unemotionally” answered the dispatcher’s questions. She wouldn’t specify what had happened, only that the police needed to come immediately.
Then she dialed her husband Rusty and told him that he needed to come home.
According to Rusty Yates:
She said, you know, like, “You need to come home.” I said, “Is anyone hurt?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said–I said, “Who?” And she said, “The children.” And I sa–and she said, “all of them,” and I–and I just–I mean, and my heart just sunk, you know?
Police who arrived on the scene described Andrea’s demeanor as “composed.” Police said it looked as if the five children had been “posed” by Yates on the bed, as they observed young Mary’s head resting on her older brother’s shoulder as he “cupped” her with his hands.
Andrea immediately confessed to the murders and said she’d been planning them for two years. She said she did it because it dawned on her that she wasn’t a good mother and her children hadn’t been “developing correctly.”
Andrea Yates’s Slow Descent Into Madness
Growing up in Texas, Andrea exhibited few signs of the mental illness that would eventually consume her and devastate her family. At high school, she was captain of the swim team, an officer in the National Honor Society, and class valedictorian. From 1986 to 1994 she worked as a registered nurse at a local cancer center.
She met Rusty Yates, a “popular jock” and computer systems designer for NASA, while the pair lived in the same apartment building. Rusty wouldn’t realize until years later that she hadn’t dated anyone until she was 23 and was recovering from a bad breakup at the time they met.
The pair bonded over their devout Christian beliefs. Rusty in particular took the biblical admonition to “be fruitful and multiply” seriously, vowing to squeeze as many babies out of Andrea as the Lord would allow.
She would bear five children for him over the next eight years before killing them all.
The Yateses became particularly enamored with the preaching of Michael Woroniecki, a traveling fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist Christian showman who stressed that the end was near and that God’s wrath was coming and that to avoid eternal hellfire, you had to turn your back on the world and Satan and fanatically devote your life to Christ. Woroniecki was what one might call a strict, old-school, partriarchal vagina-shamer, alleging that “the role of woman is derived…from the sin of Eve.”
Inspired by Woroniecki’s itinerant lifestyle, Rusty Yates sold the family’s house and moved them into a trailer. Then he sold the trailer and moved them into a bus he’d bought from Woroniecki. Noah and John slept in the luggage compartment while the rest of the family slept in the cabin.
During this hard turn toward religious fundamentalism was when Andrea’s mind began unspooling.
Shortly after Noah, her first child, was born in 1994, Andrea experienced a disturbing vision of someone getting violently stabbed, but she never told anyone of this vision until after her arrest for murder. After the birth of Luke, her fourth child, Andrea says she started hearing Satan’s voice urging her to kill her children.
In June of 1999, Rusty Yates says he returned home one day to find Andrea chewing on her fingers—not on her fingernails, but on the fingers themselves.
The next day, she attempted suicide by gulping down an overdose of pills. She was admitted to the hospital and administered antidepressants. She allegedly told hospital workers she swallowed the pills because she wanted to “sleep forever.”
Yates attempted suicide shortly thereafter, holding a knife up to her neck and pleading with Rusty to just let her die. She was again hospitalized and was given an anti-psychotic drug this time around. She was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. Her psychiatrist warned that if she had more children, it would “guarantee future psychotic depression.”
Within weeks, Andrea was pregnant with her fifth child.
Andrea’s condition stabilized somewhat until her father’s death in March, 2001. She stopped taking her medication, ceased to feed the infant Mary, and began cutting herself while obsessively reading the Bible. She picked at her hair obsessively, leaving four bald patches on her scalp. She left “score marks” up and down her legs by wounding them. She stopped feeding her children, claiming they were all “eating too much.”
On May 3, 2001, after relatives noticed she’d filled up her bathtub with water without offering a coherent explanation as to why, they had her readmitted to a psych ward. (She would later reveal she had planned to drown the children that day but had a change of heart.)
Hospitalized yet again, Andrea was catatonic for ten days until the hospital was forced to dismiss her due to limitations on her health insurance.
And finally, on the morning of June 2000, she decided to take action.
Andrea Yates Arrest, Trial, and Retrial
Against the wishes of her defense team, Andrea eagerly confessed to the crimes and begged for punishment, claiming that she knew that what she did was wrong.
She said it was Satan who instructed her to kill her children. She claimed to have heard “growls and voices” and saw satanic “teddy bears and ducks and marching soldiers.” Exhibiting signs of schizophrenia, she told investigators that video cameras placed in strategic areas throughout her house had been watching her every move. She said she often spoke directly to Satan and that she often hallucinated satanic symbols on the walls. She said that Satan often spoke through TV cartoon characters to her and the children.
As prosecution psychiatrist Park Dietz would explain, Andrea “said she believed that if she killed her children, the state would execute her, Satan would be eliminated from the world and the children would be saved.” Drowning the children would deliver them from Satan because they “would go up to heaven and be with God, be safe.” She confessed that her two 1999 suicide attempts were a vain effort to kill the Devil inside herself.
Andrea also claimed to be highly influenced by the 1995 movie Seven and came to believe that since she’d committed all seven deadly sins except murder, somehow killing all her kids would close the circle and redeem her family even if it condemned her to jail and eternal hell. She reasoned that if the children remained alive, she “would still worry about their soul with Satan around.”
Despite all this, her 2002 jury found her medically competent to stand trial. She was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
But due to a legal technicality (in his testimony, Park Dietz referenced a Law & Order episode about a mother drowning her baby that turned out to never have existed), Yates was retried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was reassigned to a high-security mental hospital where her first roommate was Deena Schlosser, another mother who’d killed her own child.
Andrea Yates Now
Andrea Yates is currently at a minimum-security mental hospital in Texas and will likely be confined there for life.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether she was sane or insane, nor whether the Devil made her do it or she did it all on her own.
What matters is that all five of her babies are dead.
The Killer In Her Own Words
These and other quotes by Andrea Yates are on Quote Catalog.
Well, doing it would take them to heaven, and not doing it there’d be a risk of Satan messing them up.
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….Better for someone else to tie a millstone around their neck and cast them in a river than stumble. They were going to perish. I was so stupid! Couldn’t I have killed just one to fulfill the prophecy? Couldn’t I have offered Mary?
Well, I didn’t want them ruined, and I was afraid being around him, they would continue to go downhill. And I thought I should save them before that happened.
They had to die to be saved.