5 Things To Know About Andrea Yates, The Mom Who Drowned Her 5 Kids In The Bathtub

On June 20, 2001, mother of five Andrea Yates drowned her children, who ranged in age from six months to seven years, in the bathtub at her home in Houston, Texas.

Photo by: Mug shot of Andrea Yates [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

Mug shot of Andrea Yates [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

By: Catherine Townsend

After her husband, Rusty Yates, left their Houston, Texas home for work on June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates, who was reportedly suffering from extreme postpartum depression, filled the bathtub with water. She then proceeded to drown her three youngest sons, and then put their bodies on the bed and covered them.

Her oldest son, 7-year-old Noah, allegedly became terrified after he saw his baby sister floating in the bath. He reportedly tried to run away, but Yates caught him — and then held him down until he was dead.

The crime scene was the stuff of nightmares, and the case soon made national headlines.

Yates was convicted of murder at her first trial in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison. But the conviction was overturned three years later. In 2006, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was released from prison and committed to a mental hospital.

Here are five things to know about the trial that brought postpartum psychosis into the national conversation.

Extreme religious views may have played a role in Yates’ delusions

Rusty purchased a bus from a traveling minister named Michael Woroniecki that he and Andrea lived in for a period of time before moving into their house.

According to Andrea’s family, Woroniecki's extreme views — including the idea that bad mothers create bad children who are doomed to burn in hell — heavily influenced Andrea. After drowning her children, Yates called 911 and immediately admitted to the terrible deed. She later testified at her trial that she believed that killing her children would “save their souls.”

Her psychiatrist had just taken her off her anti-psychotic medication

Yates reportedly had a long history of mental health issues at the time she drowned her children. In 1999, she reportedly overdosed on Trazodone, a medication used to treat depression. She was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.

Later that summer, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after she reportedly tried to kill herself with a knife. After two months of inpatient treatment, she was sent home and prescribed Haldol.

At some point, doctors warned Andrea and Rusty that if she got pregnant again, her post-partum psychosis was very likely to return. Despite the warnings, in March 2000, Yates became pregnant at Rusty’s urging.

She stopped taking the Haldol, and that November, her daughter Mary was born. Several months later, her father passed away, and Yates’ mental state worsened. She stopped drinking liquids, cut herself, and refused to feed her daughter. She read the bible obsessively.

Yates went to see a new psychiatrist, who briefly treated her with Haldol again, but discontinued her prescription on June 4, 2001, according to CNN.

A court reversed Yates’ conviction based on a Law & Order episode

During Yates' trial, psychiatrist Park Dietz, an expert for the prosecution, testified that he believed Yates got the idea to drown her children after watching an episode of Law & Order with a similar plotline. However, the show's producers later advised that no such episode ever aired.

The Texas First Court of Appeals reversed Yates' capital murder conviction, saying that Dietz’s testimony may have prejudiced the jury. Dietz said later that he'd made an honest mistake, according to ABC 13. He also stated that he had confused other episodes with one he believed to be related to Yates’ case — and that he'd emailed prosecutors explaining the mistake during the first trial. However, he claimed that they never introduced his email into evidence.

Rusty Yates, who remarried and had a son, doesn't blame Andrea

Prosecutors have questioned why Rusty Yates left his wife, whom he knew to be mentally unstable, alone with their children on the day they were drowned.

Rusty stated that he believed that Yates would be fine, since she would only be alone with the children for an hour between the time he left for work and the time when his mother was due to arrive to help her. Rusty, a former NASA engineer, divorced Andrea after the killings.

He later remarried and had a son with his second wife. According to media reports, she filed for divorce in 2017.

Rusty told Oprah Winfrey that he calls Andrea regularly and visits her once a year at the Texas mental hospital.

He also said he has forgiven his children's murderer, noting he's always "blamed her illness" for their deaths. He has also publicly stated that he blamed her doctors instead of her.

"If they had given her the same medicine that worked before, if they left her in the hospital until she was well, any number of things in her medical treatment — and this never would have happened," Yates told CBS News.

Today, Yates spends her time watching videos of her children and grieves for them “every day”

Since 2007, Andrea has lived in a low-security state mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas. Her attorney, George Parnham, told Today that he still communicates regularly with Yates.

He said that she has received treatment and is doing well — and that she talks about her children, watches videos of her children, and “grieves for her children every day.”

For more on this case, stream Deadly Women: "Mothers Who Kill" on Max or The Crimes That Changed Us: Andrea Yates on discovery+.

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