Toronto Star

Jun. 21, 03:44 EDT

Husband stands by woman who killed their children

Andrea Yates has confessed to killing her four sons and one daughter

The Toronto Star

HOUSTON (AP) - The husband of the woman accused of drowning their five children said tearfully today that he supports her because her severe depression had driven her to kill.

''One side of me blames her because she did it, but the other side of me says she didn't. ... She wasn't in the right frame of mind,'' Russell Yates told reporters.

Pointing to Andrea Pia Yates on a family picture, he said, ''The woman here is not the woman who killed my children.''

Andrea Yates, 36, was charged with murder Wednesday night in connection with the deaths of the children, all apparently drowned in a bathtub.

Authorities said she summoned police Wednesday and led an officer to a bed in a back bedroom. Found under a sheet were the wet bodies of Mary, six months; Luke, 2; Paul, 3; and John, 5. The fifth child, seven-year-old Noah, was found in a bathtub.

Her husband, a computer specialist at NASA, arrived about the same time as police but was kept out of the home. His wife was later led away in handcuffs from the one-storey Spanish-style home.

Outside the house Thursday, Yates said his wife's father died recently, and ''that really sent her spiralling down.'' Medication that had worked for her during an earlier bout of depression after their fourth child was born also didn't work, he said.

''She loves our kids,'' he said. ''Anybody who knew her knew that.''

''I want to help her through this,'' he said. ''I want to show her I love her and support her.''

''Andrea is a beautiful person, and it's very upsetting to all of us,'' added Russell Yates' mother, Dora.

The two spoke on the front lawn, near a tree that was turned into a memorial site decorated with flowers and a large stuffed polar bear.

Houston police spokesperson John Cannon said Andrea Yates was breathing heavily when she called police to her home, but she didn't provide details. She was wet when she answered the door. ''At that time she said to the officer, `I killed my children,' '' Cannon said.

''It is just rather unimaginable,'' he said. ''It's difficult to deal with when you are talking about five little kids who were killed, probably systematically.''

Judy Hay, a spokesperson for Children's Protective Services, said records indicate the woman attempted suicide on June 18, 1999. Five days later, Children's Protective Services was called because mental-health officials worried the woman's children didn't have proper care.

''We found them at their grandparents with their father,'' Hay said. ''It was never assigned because there was no abuse or neglect.''

Postpartum depression - suffered by mothers who have just given birth - affects 10 per cent to 20 per cent of new moms, researchers say.

Dr. Lauren Marangell, a psychiatrist who leads the Baylor College of Medicine's mood disorders research program, said postpartum depression is treatable and rarely results in violence to others.

''With depression, you're typically more worried about (the patients) themselves,'' Marangell said. ''With postpartum depression, you do worry because you have a vulnerable infant at home.''

The three oldest boys had attended a birthday party over the weekend at the home of Raymond Rivera, whose grandson Rocky celebrated his first birthday.

The birthday party video shows Noah, John and Paul Yates as neighbours described them - happy, exuberant kids often seen playing outside with their father. The children smacked a pinata, ate cake and appeared to enjoy themselves along with their father on the video.

Their mother had stayed home.

The father said ''his wife didn't want to come because she was depressed from having her baby, or something like that,'' Rivera said.

''What's scary is that it might have been anyone,'' added neighbour John Fancher. ''My kids could have been staying over there.''

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