Russell Yates Defends His Wife

Andrea Yates Murdered Their Five Young Children

The husband of the Texas woman who admits killing all five of their children told 60 Minutes Correspondent Ed Bradley in his first interview that she committed the crime because of mental illness that he believes a hospital and her doctor failed to treat properly.

Russell Yates also defended his wife Andrea as being a good mother in Bradley's report.

Two weeks before Mrs. Yates shocked the nation by drowning her children, one by one, in the bathtub, Mr. Yates said her psychiatrist, Dr. Mohammed Saeed, did something he found alarming. "The doctor took (Mrs. Yates) off her anti-psychotic medicine when she'd had psychosis," Mr. Yates said. "He diagnosed her himself [with] postpartum depression with psychosis."

Although Dr. Saeed took her off anti-psychotic medicine, Mrs. Yates continued to take anti-depressant drugs he had prescribed. Her condition worsened, said Mr. Yates, and he took her back to the doctor. It was two days before she killed her children.

"We were desperate. She was so sick. I was at my wit's end... 'Help us,'" Mr. Yates said he told Dr. Saeed. Mr. Yates said the doctor adjusted the dose of her anti-depressants, but otherwise offered words instead of hospitalization. "He gets in her face and says, 'Andrea you need to think positive thoughts,'" Mr. Yates told Bradley.

Dr. Saeed refused to be interviewed, but in Mrs. Yates' records he wrote that he took her off the anti-psychotic drugs because he believed she was developing dangerous side effects and, he wrote, she denied having psychotic symptoms.

Mrs. Yates had a history of depression after giving birth and had spent time in a hospital for it after the birth of her fourth child. Soon after her fifth child was born last spring, Mrs. Yates spent 12 days in Devereux Hospital outside Houston, where, Mr. Yates believes, she was discharged before she was well enough to leave.

Two days before her release, hospital records described Mrs. Yates as "somber, sad, withdrawn, delusional... with possible hallucinations... and suffering from impaired judgment." On the day of her release, hospital records show Mrs. Yates said she was feeling much better and had improved, yet Mr. Yates contends it was too soon to release her. "There's absolutely no reason she should have been let out of that hospital. It was just incomprehensible."

A former supervising nurse at Devereux, Jackie Pruden, said it was not unusual for patients to be released too early from that hospital. "I have seen patients released before they were ready to go," she told Bradley.

"They weren't getting the counseling, behavior modification. And they were being released before they learned the coping mechanisms they needed on the outside world," she said.

Mrs. Yates is back on anti-psychotic drugs and her condition has improved; she was recently found to be mentally competent enough to stand trial. Her lawyers have entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Both sides aree that Mrs. Yates is mentally ill, but Harris County prosecutors have charged her with capital murder and are seeking the death penalty. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said, "I want to hold her accountable for the death of those children. That's my job, to hold people accountable for what they do," he told Bradley.

The case has aroused strong feelings. Advocates for the mentally ill have rushed to Mrs. Yates’ defense, using the argument that postpartum depression is a very serious illness that, in varying degrees, affects most mothers. Others paint her as a methodical murderer, to which Mr Yates responded, "They don't know Andrea…a person's heart can be good while their mind is sick," he said.

Mr. Yates provided videotapes of Andrea cheerfully playing with their children and no evidence of child abuse has ever been found, but some believe he could have prevented the murders. "A family cannot protect themselves from a psychotic person. A doctor can be putting the psychotic patient in the hospital," he told Bradley. "I did everything I could…to see that Andrea got well."

Mr. Yates believes it all comes down to medical treatment. "If she received the medical treatment that she deserved, then the kids would be alive, and Andrea would be well on her way to recovery and we’d be unknown," he lamented.

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