Ottawa Citizen
Thursday June 28, 2001

Houston father buries 5 children allegedly drowned by their mother in bathtub

The Ottawa Citizen

HOUSTON (AP) - After a short graveside service for his five slain children, Russell Yates stopped beside each small white casket and touched it before it was lowered into the ground.

About 100 people attended the service Wednesday for Noah, seven, John, five, Paul, three, Luke, two, and Mary, six-months, all allegedly drowned in the bathtub last week by their mother.

Yates did not speak at the graveside service but delivered a 50 minute eulogy earlier Wednesday during a funeral at Clear Lake Church of Christ, a few blocks from the family's home in suburban Houston.

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," Yates told about 300 mourners at the church. "That's exactly what he's done."

During the service, he went to the caskets, arranged in an arc, and talked about his favourite memories of each child.

He described Noah as intelligent, independent and a lover of bugs; John, rough and tumble with a great smile; Paul, the most well-behaved; Luke, the troublemaker, the one most likely to challenge boundaries; and Mary, the "princess" of the family.

Yates told a story of how Noah once caught a caterpillar that became a butterfly when the family was on a road trip. The family quickly stopped beside the road and let the butterfly go as it emerged from the cocoon.

Yates gazed down at Noah's casket: "That is kind of how I look at this. We've set you free."

His wife, Andrea Yates, 36, remained in jail, charged with capital murder and under a 24-hour suicide watch.

Inmates in the section of the jail where she is being held have access to a radio, but officials did not know if she heard news reports about the funerals.

Defence lawyer George Parnham has said he is considering an insanity defence. Russell Yates has said his wife suffered from postpartum depression.

A gag order has been issued in the case, prohibiting lawyers, police officers or witnesses involved from discussing it with reporters.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, reached before the gag order took effect, said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty should be made within three weeks.

Police found the lifeless bodies of the four youngest children still wet under a sheet on a bed in the family's home on June 20. Noah was found in the bathtub. Police say Andrea Yates confessed to killing them.

In an interview with the online edition of Newsweek, Andrea Yates' brother, Andrew Kennedy, said his sister was hospitalized several months ago after attempting suicide at her parent's home.

Kennedy told Newsweek that Andrea held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill herself. He said she was hospitalized at least four times after the suicide attempt.

© The Canadian Press, 2001

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