Houston Chronicle

June 28, 2001

Andrea Yates' siblings: Depression runs in family

Houston Chronicle

Depression ran in the Kennedy family, but when it hit Andrea Yates, the medication and support that had helped her siblings never quite comforted her, family members told a television audience today.

In an interview on CBS' Early Show, Michele Freeman and Andrew Kennedy spoke of the transformation they had seen come over their sister, Andrea Pia Yates, who admitted drowning her five children at her Clear Lake home last week.

From their mother's home in Friendswood, the Yates' siblings tried to explain the life of their once vibrant, happy sister.

"It's something I couldn't imagine," Kennedy said.

"My sister was a very good mother and I'm kind of confused," he said. "I knew something was wrong but, you know. I tried to talk to her and ask her `Is everything going OK?' and she'd say, `Fine.' But ... I could tell by looking at her that it wasn't OK."

Freeman and Kennedy described visiting their sister in jail Wednesday, the day of the funeral for the children -- Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months.

Freeman said Yates says little. " She stares in your eyes, and when you look at her it's like she's a million miles away," Freeman said.

Kennedy said his sister does not comprehend the magnitude of what has happened.

"She really -- she doesn't realize what's happening. She asked us if ... the funeral had occurred and we told her that it had and we were trying to be positive to her and we said everything was ... fine. But she just didn't have much to say," Kennedy said.

After the birth of Andrea's fourth child, Luke, Kennedy said he began to see a significant change in his sister, describing her state as often zombie-like.

"She just ... stopped laughing for at least the last two years and she used to have a real hearty laugh so, you know, I knew something was wrong," he said.

The youngest of five children, Andrea was not the only Yates child to suffer from depression, Freeman said.

"I myself am on medicine for (depression) and I have two other brothers that are on medication for that," Freeman said.

"I just want everybody to know that it's time for us to start observing people with signs of depression. My co-workers at work, where I am employed, they noticed the change in me and they supported me," Freeman said.

A miscarriage between Andrea's third and fourth child was difficult for her as was their father's death, the siblings said.

And they said they "pray a lot" to deal with the possibility their sister may face the death penalty

"This whole family has (come) together. And we're sorry that a tragedy like this has brought us together, but every single one of us are positive that goodness will come out of this," Freeman said.

She said she hopes the tragedy will make people more aware of depression, and encourage them to intervene. "If you see signs of depression ... ask and promote ... any kind of support that you can," she said.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle