Sunday, March 03, 2002

The Yates trial

Why were kids alone with mom?

        Russell “Rusty” Yates testified on behalf of his wife, who drowned their five children. “She's wonderful,” he told the jury in Houston.

        What about you, Rusty? Are you wonderful, too?

        He winked and smiled at his wife as he entered the courtroom, then told jurors the two decided to have a fifth child despite her bout with postpartum depression. He said he thought she was cured. He said he depended on the opinion of a psychiatrist. I wonder if he asked his son Noah.

        Seven-year-old Noah tried to get away. His little wet sock was in the hallway outside the bathroom where he died. His body was badly bruised.

A dirty glass

        Think of the second-graders you know. They can tell you what their day is like. They might not have the words to describe depression. Or psychosis. But they can tell you if Mommy spent the day staring out the window or shrieking or drooling. They might not know this is peculiar, especially if they don't get out much, but they can supply enough information to make it clear that something is wrong.

        If they are asked.

        Russell Yates said he didn't think his wife was dangerous. But did he think she was competent? Or even pleasant? After he got the call from his wife saying she had hurt their five children, Russell Yates rushed home. A police officer, who had to tell the young father the grim news, asked Russell Yates solicitously if he wanted a glass of water.

        Russell Yates said he did, but “I doubt you'll find a clean glass in the house.” He apparently didn't want to drink from a dirty glass. But maybe he thought the kids didn't mind.

        Debbie Holmes, a friend of Andrea Yates, testified Thursday. “I was calling my sister and my other family members, constantly crying. I was very frustrated at the lack of care I thought she was receiving.” This must have been very difficult for Ms. Holmes.

        I wonder how it felt for Luke, John, Paul, Mary and Noah. Little stair steps, we used to call siblings born close together. Noah was the oldest. Mary, at 6 months, was the baby.

Criminal charges

        While Andrea Yates was being treated at a mental health facility last April and May, Ms. Holmes testified, Russell Yates couldn't understand why his wife couldn't keep up with taking care of the children and home-schooling them.

        The 37-year-old NASA engineer described the family's aversion to “social integration,” saying they wanted to live a simple life where “man is the breadwinner and woman is the homemaker.” No mention of how the children fit into this simple life, although in one interview Russell Yates joked that he wanted enough kids for a basketball team.

        After she was released from the hospital, Andrea Yates paced around her home and smelled like she hadn't bathed in days. Dora Yates testified Tuesday that her “very precious daughter-in-law” stared into space for hours and scratched her head until she had bald spots.

        Would you leave your kids with somebody like this? Would you go off to work trapping them with a person who has been on and off powerful anti-psychotic medicine? And is currently unmedicated. Who tried to kill herself. Twice.

        Andrea Pia Yates, 37, is on trial for the murder of her five children. How could she have done such a thing? How could such a terrible thing happen?

        Surely, she had to have at least one accomplice.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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