New York Times

June 28, 2001

Grief-Stricken Father Eulogizes 5 Drowned Houston Children

New York Times

The Associated Press
A funeral service was held on Wednesday for the five children who the authorities say were drowned by their mother in a bathtub. The woman, Andrea P. Yates, remains jailed and under suicide watch.

HOUSTON, June 27 The father of five children whose mother is charged with drowning them spoke at their funeral today, choked with grief, then placed a blanket next to each little body before the coffins were closed for the final time.

"I can't possibly tell you everything there is to know about each one of them," the father, Russell Yates, told 300 mourners at the Clear Lake Church of Christ. "But I can give you a glimpse of who they were."

Six-month-old Mary was the princess of the family, said Mr. Yates, a NASA engineer. He described 3-year-old Paul as the most well behaved; 2-year-old Luke as the one most likely to challenge rules; John, 5, as a rough and tumble child with a great smile; and Noah, the oldest at 7, as intelligent, independent and a lover of bugs.

In eulogizing Mary, Mr. Yates said he had at first been unable to believe his wife had given birth to a girl, after four boys. "I thought boys were all we'd ever have," he said. "I told her I wanted a basketball team first, then we'd talk about girls."

Mr. Yates said nothing else today about his wife, Andrea P. Yates. But he told reporters last Thursday, a day after the killings, that she had been battling postpartum depression, and on Friday he visited her in jail.

The church service lasted about 75 minutes, and then the coffins were slowly wheeled out and taken to a nearby cemetery, where Mr. Yates wept as he touched each one.

Ms. Yates, meanwhile, remained in jail under a 24-hour suicide watch. She is charged with capital murder, and on Tuesday a judge, fearing a tainting of prospective jurors, issued an order prohibiting lawyers, police officers and witnesses in the case from discussing it with reporters.

The police were called to the Yates home in suburban Houston on June 20, and found the bodies of the five children. The authorities say Ms. Yates quickly confessed to drowning all five in the bathtub.

In the Yateses' front yard, a few blocks from the church, four blue balloons and a pink balloon now rise above a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and crayon drawings.

"They were all so well behaved," said Joanne Juren, co-owner of a bookstore where the family bought supplies to home-school the children. "They were just the perfect little children. I told Andrea the last time she was here that if we had a gold star to give for the best children, we would give it to hers. Andrea just beamed."

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company