National Post

Page URL:

June 21, 2001

Woman charged with drowning her five children

C. Bryson Hull
Reuters, with files from The Dallas Morning News
National Post

Houston Police, Reuters
Andrea Yates was taken to the Houston Police Department yesterday after her five children appeared to have been drowned in the bathtub.

HOUSTON - A 36-year-old woman suffering postpartum depression confessed to killing her five young children who are believed to have been drowned in the bathtub, police said.

Andrea Yates called police and when they arrived the still wet mother is alleged to have said: "I killed my children."

In a bedroom an officer pulled back a sheet on a bed to reveal four bodies -- Ms. Yates' sons Luke, two, Paul, three, and John, five, and daughter Mary, six months.

The fifth child, Noah, seven, was found in the bathtub by a second officer responding to the call, John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department, told reporters.

The father, whom neighbours identified as Russell Yates, a computer technician who worked at the nearby NASA base, arrived at the home with police.

His wife of eight years had called him at work seconds after calling police and had told him simply: "You better come home."

Ms. Yates, who has taken medication for depression since the birth of her youngest boy two years ago, could face the death penalty.

Mr. Cannon said: "Rest assured, it is going to be carried as a capital murder case." In Texas, capital murder carries a maximum penalty of death by injection.

He said the woman called police to her home in a modest southeast Houston suburb in the shadow of NASA's Johnson Space Center in mid-morning.

Ms. Yates was wet, breathing heavily and clearly disturbed when the first officer arrived on what he thought was a routine welfare check, Mr. Cannon said.

A television report showed the long-haired, bespectacled Ms. Yates, her shirt torn in many places, being led away in handcuffs by police.

She was later charged with multiple counts of capital murder.

Neighbour Raymond Rivera said the Yates' children regularly played outside and three of them enjoyed themselves during a birthday party at his home on Saturday.

Mr. Rivera said he was surprised Ms. Yates had not joined her husband and children at the party and asked his neighbour why.

"He told me his wife didn't want to come because she was depressed from having the last babies," Mr. Rivera said.

Harris County Child Protective Services spokeswoman Judy Hay said that Ms. Yates had been hospitalized two years ago for a suicide attempt via overdose. CPS investigated to ensure someone was caring for the children and took no action after finding they were being looked after, Ms. Hay said.

Most new mothers experience some sort of "baby blues" after giving birth, experts say, but only about 15% of them suffer from post-partum depression.

Of that 15%, one or two out of every 1,000 mothers kills their child, said Dr. Ann Dunnewold, a psychologist and past president of Postpartum Support International.

Women who kill their children generally suffer from an advanced variety of post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis. The psychotic stage generally includes symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions or significant confusion, Dr. Dunnewold said.

Copyright © 2001 National Post Online