Andrea Yates: I Considered Suicide

Andrea Yates faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted in the drownings of 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and 6-month-old Mary. Charges later could be filed in the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2. 020312 AP / CBS

Feeling overwhelmed raising four young sons in crowded living conditions in 1999, Andrea Yates thought about hurting them but instead tried to kill herself twice, she told a psychiatrist.

On a hot summer day about two years later when her family had grown to five children — 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary — she worried she was a bad mother and they weren't progressing properly. She said she considered suicide.

"That thought did cross my mind," she told the psychiatrist.

Instead, prosecutors said, she held her five children under water in the family's bathtub until their bodies were lifeless.

Jurors in her murder trial Monday watched her 32-minute videotaped interview with Dr. Lucy Puryear, who talked to her in July 2001, five weeks after the drownings. Testimony resumed Tuesday morning.

Yates, 42, is being retried because her 2002 capital murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court that ruled erroneous testimony might have influenced the jury. She has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Yates, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit hanging slightly off her right shoulder, paused for up to a minute or more after some questions. Other times, she gave detailed answers, although her voice was monotone. Yates, whose hair looked stringy, also clenched her jaw and occasionally scratched her head.

When asked what she thought would happen to her after killing the youngsters, she said, "I'd be arrested, go to jail." When asked if that was what she wanted, she paused, then replied, "I broke the law, and I had to be punished for it, for being a bad mother."

Puryear testified that Yates was so mentally ill and delusional that she thought killing the children was right, even though she called 911 and later asked a detective when her trial would be. Texas' legal definition of insanity is that someone, because of a severe mental illness, does not know at the time of an offense that it is wrong.

On the videotape, Yates seemed confused when Puryear asked if she killed the children to get rid of Satan.

Because Yates was medicated that day, Puryear said, Yates could not remember that she told a jail psychiatrist the day after the murders that Satan was living inside her, so she had to be punished in order for Satan to be executed and for her children to go to heaven.

"She did something that was so horrible and hard for a mother to do because she believed she was doing the absolute right thing for her children," Puryear said.

Prosecutors say Yates may be mentally ill but knew her actions were wrong.

Under cross-examination, Puryear acknowledged that Yates told the police officer who arrived at her house that she killed her children — not that she saved them from hell or sent them to heaven, or that she was ridding the world of Satan or needed to be executed.

Yates, being tried in only three of the children's deaths, will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. After the first jury rejected execution, prosecutors could not seek the death penalty again because they found no new evidence.
  • Brian Goodman

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