After 15 Years, Mom Who Drowned Kids Still Shuns Release

Andrea Yates annually declines release hearing at Texas mental hospital
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2022 9:39 AM CDT
After 15 Years, Mom Who Drowned Kids Still Shuns Release
Andrea Yates walks into Houston courtroom for a hearing on July 27, 2006.   (AP Photo/Brett Coomer, Pool, File)

(Newser) – It's been more than 20 years since Andrea Yates drowned her five young children—Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and 6-month-old Mary—one by one in a bathtub, which ultimately landed her in a Texas mental hospital. She's still there—but not against her will. As People reports, Yates has declined to sit for a hearing to determine whether she's competent to leave Kerrville State Hospital each year since she was committed in January 2007. She'd been found not guilty of the 2001 murders by reason of insanity the previous year, after her lawyers successfully overturned a 2002 conviction for capital murder.

Experts testified that she suffered from postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, and schizophrenia. Before the drownings, she'd been admitted to psychiatric hospitals and attempted suicide. Since arriving at Kerrville, Yates has never been evaluated for release because she annually waives her right to a hearing, as KTRK reported last year. "She's where she wants to be. Where she needs to be," her former defense attorney and friend George Parnham told the outlet. "And I mean, hypothetically, where would she go? What would she do?" Her former husband, Rusty Yates, secured a divorce in 2004, though he still visits his ex, per the Houston Chronicle.

She "has now spent a third of her life institutionalized," per KTRK. When not undergoing treatment, the 57-year-old makes aprons, cards, and other crafts, which are sold to benefit the Yates Children Memorial Fund. The charity, founded by Parnham and his wife, works to improve women's mental health, with a focus on new mothers. If there's an upside to the case, it is perhaps "a greater understanding among OB-GYN pediatricians that perinatal mental illness is common and treatable and needs to be addressed," Dr. Sherry Duson, a licensed therapist whose knowledge of the case inspired her to open Houston's Center for Postpartum Family Health, told the Chronicle last year. (Read more Andrea Yates stories.)

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