True Crime Corner: Andrea Yates

(FILE PHOTO) Andrea Yates

The last edition of True Crime Corner featured a mother who killed her eight young children over a span of several years. On this installment, the year is 2001, and another crime involving five children devastated the Houston, Texas area.

Andrea Pia Kennedy was a Texas native who was born on July 2, 1964. The former high school valedictorian married Russell “Rusty” Yates in 1993. The couple had five biological children during the course of their marriage.

On July 20, 2001, Andrea Yates was left home alone to care for the children while Rusty was at work. Although her mother-in-law would soon come over to offer her assistance, she did the unthinkable. Yates went into the bathroom of her home and filled the bathtub with water. She proceeded to call in each of her sons and drown them, placing their bodies on a bed and covering them with a sheet. She killed three of the boys before her six month old daughter. The oldest son saw his baby sister lifeless in the water and fled the bathroom. Yates gave chase, caught her son, and drowned him. Five precious children, ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years, lost their lives that day to someone they should have been able to trust the most.

Afterward, Yates called her husband at work and told him to come home, there was something wrong with all of the children. Rusty Yates returned to absolute heartbreak. His wife placed a chilling call to 911, at first requesting a police offer before agreeing that an ambulance was also needed. She reportedly confessed to the horrific deaths at the scene, and was led out the back of the house in handcuffs to a waiting cruiser, still wet from the horrible incident.

Rusty Yates stayed with his wife, despite the fact that she single-handedly murdered their five innocent children. He blamed the children’s deaths on the mental illness that plagued Andrea. He felt she deserved compassion and support. They would remain married for a while, before divorcing nearly three years after the crime. Rusty later remarried and had another child.

Andrea Yates was found guilty of killing her children, and was sentenced to life in prison. However, that conviction was later overturned and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a mental health facility.

This is a tragic story for everyone involved that made national news when it occurred. What would cause a mother to destroy her young family?

Rusty said that his wife and children were his life. Given that all the children had biblical names, it wouldn’t be a surprise if religion played a big role in their lives. Rusty Yates worked as an engineer at the time of the incident, his wife left at home to care and home school their growing family, no longer working as a nurse. There was a time when the family lived in a converted bus, before the home where the tragic event occurred was purchased.

The couple were told by a preacher that their children would be condemned to hell for the mistakes of their parents, yet this same man encouraged married people to have multiple children. They were open to having as many children as they were able to have. Rusty taught religious courses to his wife and children, and Andrea tried to persuade some of her other family members to abandon Catholicism.

Such beliefs from their religious leader could weigh heavily on a couple, but combine that pressure with mental illness, and it’s a recipe for disaster. The young mother attempted suicide on more than one occasion. Just like other family members, Andrea Yates suffered from severe psychosis and post-partum depression. She was in and out of mental health facilities and on and off a variety of medications for years. She and her husband were told that she could relapse again should they have another child. With this in mind, they proceeded to have their first daughter who would be their last child. The distraught mother believed that she was saving her children’s souls by killing them, and that she was possessed by Satan.

Andrea Yates will likely remain confined to mental health facilities for the rest of her life.

While unable to leave the location where she is housed, she spends her time making crafts that are sold anonymously. The proceeds from the sale of her items benefit a memorial fund for her children.

If you would like to read more information about this sad event, there is “Are You There Alone? The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates” by Suzanne O’Malley. From Suzy Spencer is the book “Breaking Point.” This story has also been featured on episodes of A&E’s “American Justice” and TruTV’s “Mugshots.”


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