Houston Chronicle

July 24, 2001, 10:04PM

Mom charged in drownings moved to psychiatric unit

By LISA TEACHEY
Houston Chronicle

The Houston woman accused of drowning her five children is no longer being held in isolation at the Harris County Jail.

Andrea Pia Yates, 37, is still under a suicide watch, but she has been moved to a cellblock with other psychiatric inmates.

Yates is charged with capital murder of sons Noah, 7, and John, 5. They, along with siblings Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months, were found dead June 20 in the Yates' home in the 900 block of Beachcomber. Each had drowned in the bathtub.

The Sheriff's Department said Tuesday that Yates is now being held in unit 2-C-2 at the jail.

A spokeswoman with the Harris County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Authority, which oversees the jail's psychiatric unit, said the unit is a cellblock where psychiatric inmates have contact with each other.

Yates was moved Sunday night or Monday, a source said.

Meanwhile, Yates' lawyers have requested to see transcripts from any medical witnesses before the county grand jury considering the case.

Lawyers George Parnham and Wendell Odom said the transcripts are vital because Yates' mental state "is a paramount issue that will be developed in both pretrial matters as well as during the course of the trial."

The information would be particularly vital if there were testimony regarding Yates' mental condition at the time of her children's deaths, the attorneys said.

Earlier this month, the defense requested a mental competency hearing, saying Yates suffers from a prolonged history of mental illness, including two hospitalizations, at least two suicide attempts and diagnosis of "major depression and postpartum depression with psychosis."

In response, state District Judge Belinda Hill ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Yates. The report is due Aug. 6.

Yates' next court date is Aug. 8.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle