Houston Chronicle

Sept. 1, 2001, 5:13PM

Yates' medical records indicated little progress

By LISA TEACHEY and RUTH RENDON
Houston Chronicle

Medical records from Andrea Pia Yates' last hospital stay about a month before her five children were drowned indicate her condition had not changed much from the time she was admitted until she was discharged.

Yates, the Clear Lake mother who faces capital murder charges, was admitted to Devereux Texas Treatment Network in League City on May 4 in a "nearly catatonic" state. The records indicate throughout her 10-day stay she remained severely depressed and refused to answer doctors' questions.

It wasn't until May 13, the day before she was released, that her medical chart notes she "for the first time answered questions about suicide (with) a `no' and answered all the questions."

The next day Yates was released to an outpatient program after psychiatrist Mohammed Saeed determined she was not suicidal. The records indicate Saeed kept her on three antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.

The records show Yates continued on the medication, including Haldol, until May 22. No records after that date were among the ones filed with the court.

Her husband, Russell Yates, told reporters the day after his wife was arrested that she suffered severe depression for which she had undergone treatment, on and off, for two years. He said her condition had again begun to deteriorate because she was taken off the Haldol, a potent antipsychotic drug.

The hundreds of pages of records from Devereux were among a stack of medical records her lawyers filed with the court late Friday.

The other records were charts from hospitalizations at Memorial Hermann Hospital Prevention and Recovery Center (formerly Memorial Spring Shadows Glen) and Methodist Hospital, as well as another stay at Devereux in late March and early April.

According to a psychiatric assessment by Saeed on May 4, Yates "in consultation with her husband" did not follow up on outpatient care the doctor had prescribed after the previous hospital stay.

Russell Yates brought his wife back to the hospital in May because her depression was deteriorating and she had not been eating.

"There was a concern about the patient's safety because one time the patient's mother-in-law had found the patient with the bathtub filled with water and the patient was not communicating with anyone about her intent," Saeed wrote in May.

Andrea Yates called police to her home in the 900 block of Beachcomber in southeast Houston on June 20 and admitted drowning the children in the family bathtub.

Andrea Yates, 37, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two charges of capital murder in the deaths of Noah, 7, John, 5, and Mary, 6 months. She is not charged with the other children's deaths, but prosecutors plan to present evidence about the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2, during trial.

She is under a suicide watch in the psychiatric unit of the Harris County Jail. When she first arrived in jail, her family has said, she was in a zombie-like state. They now say she is coherent and spends her days visiting other inmates, exercising, reading letters and talking to a chaplain.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he will seek the death penalty for Yates to give a jury a full range of punishment options.

The Devereux records also include Yates' chart from her hospitalization there from March 31 to April 12. At that time she was admitted with postpartum depression and major recurring depression, but psychotic features were ruled out. She was discharged with the same symptoms except she had a higher score on one test.

But during that stay, it appears on April 2 the hospital's program director had requested a Galveston judge order Yates committed to Austin State Hospital. The next day, Saeed sent a letter to the same judge saying Yates, whose first name he wrote was Amanda, had signed in voluntarily and the hospital would like to discontinue the court proceedings.

It was not clear late Friday what, if any, action the Galveston court had taken on the matter.

Among the other records are charts from a 1999 stay at Memorial Spring Shadows Glen in which a psychiatrist noted Yates had tried to kill herself because she was afraid she might harm someone.

According to those records, Yates attempted suicide in June 1999 by overdosing on her father's sleeping pills.

"I had a fear I would hurt somebody. . . . I thought it better to end my own life and prevent it," Yates told Dr. Eileen Starbranch, a physician at Hermann. "There was a voice, then an image of the knife . . . I had a vision in my mind, get a knife, get a knife. . . . I had a vision of this person being stabbed . . . the afteraffects (sic)."

Yates said she had the vision about 10 times and told the doctor she had her first vision when her oldest son was a newborn. Yates declined to tell the doctor who she thought she might hurt.

Yates told the doctor she was most stressed by, "The kids, trying to train them up right, being so young . . . big responsibility . . . I don't want to fail."

She told the doctor most of her recurrent obsessive thoughts were "over our children and how they'll turn out."

State District Judge Belinda Hill has imposed a gag order on all parties involved in the case, including Yates' husband.

Meanwhile on Friday, Russell Yates hired Houston lawyer Edward Mallett to represent him.

"I'll be giving him legal advice about the law and procedures under the law," Mallett said.

Mallett said Russell Yates had been issued a subpoena to appear at his wife's competency hearing in two weeks.

The subpoena "calls for him to attend court on Sept. 12, which is the date his wife's competency hearing is scheduled. He did bring the subpoena to me and we talked about the case and I'll be representing him," Mallett said.

Russell Yates, he said, was served with the subpoena at his home Thursday evening.


Chronicle reporter Dale Lezon contributed to this story.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle