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Andrea Yates

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Introduction Andrea Yates, a Houston, Texas native, phoned police on June 20, 2001 from her home. She called to tell police she drowned all five of her children. During the phone call, she admitted to drowning her five children in a bathtub. She was 34 years old when she committed this crime. She was put on trial for capital murder in 2006. She later received a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Background History On July 2, 1964 Andrea Pia Kennedy was born in Houston, Texas. Her family was Roman Catholic. When she graduated from high school, she was class valedictorian, captain of the swim team, and an officer in the National Honor Society. She went on to the University of Houston and completed a two-year pre-nursing program. Upon graduating from the pre-nursing program, she went to the University Of Texas School Of Nursing. She graduated with a nursing degree in 1986. Upon receiving her degree she then went to work at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as a registered nurse. She worked there from 1986 to 1994. In 1989, Andrea met her soon to be husband, Russell “Rusty” Yates. They met at their apartment complex in Houston. She did not start dating till she was twenty-three. Therefore, prior to meeting Rusty she had only dated one other man. Then, on April 17, 1993 she became Andrea Yates (Montaldo). When she married Rusty, Her religious views changed also. Rusty was a disciple of the preacher Michael Peter Woroniecki. Upon marring Rusty, Andrea became his disciple, too. Woroniecki condemned Rusty and Andrea through sermons, videos, and personal phone calls of their “hypocritical Christian life.” He told them that their children were doomed to hell because of their sins. He also preached that married couples should have as many children as possible (“Andrea Yates Biography”). According Anne Eggebroten, this is a conservative Christian culture. A culture that continues to empower abusive husbands by telling women they belong at home with their children. When they decided to marry, both, Andrea and Rusty, felt that contraception was wrong. They decided to accept as many children as God would allow them to have. Before having children Andrea was successful in her job as a post-operative nurse, and she swam and jogged regularly. After her first child Noah on February 26, 1994, the church told Andrea she belonged at home. Therefore, she quit working and exercising after Noah. Her friends said that she became reclusive when she quit work. Then on December 12, 1995 she had her second son John. In 1996, Rusty accepted work in Seminole, Florida. Andrea, Noah, and John went with Rusty to Florida and moved into a 38-foot trailer. While in Florida, Andrea got pregnant, but miscarried. They moved back to Houston in 1997. They moved into a trailer. Andrea got pregnant for a fourth time. On September 13, 1997, she had Paul Yates. Then in 1998, Rusty purchased a 350-square-foot bus. This became their permanent home. on February 15, 1999, Andrea had their fourth son Luke Yates (Montaldo). Due to the cramped area of their home and living conditions, Andrea’s insanity began to surface. Then in June of 1999 she tried to commit suicide. During her recover process, doctors urged Andrea to not become pregnant again. Andrea’s family urged that Rusty buy a home for Andrea to return to. Once, she was home in her new house, her condition improved. She returned to swimming, cooking, and socializing. Then in March of 2000, Andrea became pregnant for the sixth time. Rusty insisted upon this pregnancy. On November 30, 2000, her only daughter Mary was born. Shortly after on March 12, 2001, Andrea’s father died. At this point her mental state began to worsen (Montaldo).
Her insanity started when she was living in the cramped conditions with her four children and Rusty. June 16, 1999 Andrea had called Rusty at work, asking him to come home. When he came home, Rusty found her shaking, crying, and biting her fingers in the bus home. He took her to her parent’s house. When she was transferred to her parent’s house, is when the first suicide attempt occurred. On June 17, 1999 she overdosed on her father’s prescription medication. ‘She took pills to sleep forever,’ but felt guilty because she had a ‘family to live for’” (“Andrea”). Therefore, she was rushed to Houston’s Ben Taub General Hospital. While she was there, she was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. She was moved to Methodist Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit a day later. During her treatment time, she refused to stop taking any medications, due to her breast feeding. Just two days after her suicide attempt, her psychiatrist, James Flack, diagnosed her as severely depressed and essentially non-verbal person. At this point she stopped breast feeding and went on medications. Then on June 24, 1999 she was released (Montaldo). Once she was home she stopped taking medications and stopped caring for her children. She stopped feeding them, because she thought they were eating too much. She also believed that the television characters were talking to her and the kids and that there were video cameras in the ceiling. Therefore, her condition worsened (Montaldo). She also suffered from postpartum depression. A condition resulting from having her five children and one miscarriage. It can be a first state of depression for many women. This was just one of the beginning stages of her psychotic problems (Spinelli). A little over a month later on July 20, 1999, she tried a second suicide. During this attemoted suicide she put a knife to her neck and begged Rusty to let her die. Therefore, she was again hospitalized and stayed in a catatonic stage for the next ten days. During this time of hospitalization, she was injected with different types of anti-psychotic drugs. She immediately improved. “Rusty was optimistic about the drug therapy because Andrea appeared more like the person he first met” (Montaldo). Before she was released, she was warned not to have any more children, because this might bring on another episode of psychotic behavior. However, this did not stop Rusty and Andrea; on November 20, 2000 she gave birth to her fifth child and only daughter Mary. Then about four months later her father died. This is when her mental state went down fast. During this time, she stopped talking, refused liquids, mutilated herself, read the bible frantically, and refused to feed Mary (Montaldo). According to Margaret Spinelli, she became almost mute and walked around the house like a “caged animal.” She was then hospitalized in a different hospital with a different psychiatrist, Dr. Saeed. He treated her briefly with medication, but then stopped the medication because she did not seem psychotic. Then in May she returned again and was released in ten days. In her last follow-up visit, she was told to think positive thoughts and to see a psychologist (Montaldo). However, in her family history was a serious mental disorder. Her brother had bipolar disorder. Not only that, bur her father, sister, and brother also suffered from depression. Andrea had some cases of psychiatric illness during her adolescence years (Spinelli).

Crime It was June 20, 2001, Rusty had just left for work and Rusty’s mother was on her way to Rusty and Andrea’s house. Andrea was home alone with her five children. She started filling the bathtub up with water. This water was to drown her five kids. She started with the three youngest boys and drowned all three of them. She placed them all three on a double bed in the master bedroom. She drowned Mary her youngest and left her in the bathtub. Noah the oldest came into the bathroom and asked what was wrong with Mary. He turned and ran away. When she caught him, she took him to the bathtub and drowned him. She went and placed Mary on top of her three brothers on the bed. She covered Mary, Paul, John, and Luke (Ramsland). At this point she decided to call the police to tell them what she had done. During the telephone call with the police she told them she had just killed her kids. She called Rusty around ten o’clock A.M. She told him nothing about her action only that he needed to come home. When he arrived there, the police had already shown up. According to Katherine Ramsland’s article, the police had asked why she had killed her children. She responded by saying she was a bad mother. Later in the article, she said she believed she was not a good mother because the children were “not developing correctly.” She had thoughts of hurting them for over two years. She was taken into custody instantly (Ramsland).
On June 20, 2001 Andrea Yates was charged with capital murder for “intentionally and knowingly” causing the deaths of three of her children, using water as a weapon. Then on July 31, 2001 a Houston grand jury indicted her for capital murder of Noah, John, and Mary. She was eligible for the death penalty, because she killed someone under the age of six. At this point, the judge ordered a third psychiatric examination. Then on August 8, 2001 she returned to court to enter her insanity defense. However, the psychiatric examination showed she was competent to stand trial. The next day the prosecutor stated they, the State of Texas, would be seeking the death penalty (Ramsland). On September 18th, 2001 the jury selection process started. There were eleven women and one man selected. Until September 24, 2001 the defense and prosecution debated on whether she was competent to stand trial. The jury decided that she was competent to stand trial. So on January 7, 2002 another jury was selected. This jury consisted of eight women and four men. Opening statement began on February 18th, 2002. At this point Andrea Yates was being tried on two counts of capital murder. According to Rasmsland, the primary question in the case was whether Yates had killed the children while in a state of disabling psychosis or in a state of knowing. At the end of the trial, Andrea’s lawyer asked for a mistrial, but it was denied by the judge (Ramsland). Andrea Pia Yates was found guilty on March 12, 2002 after a three week trial and in less than three hours of deliberating by the jury to come up with a verdict. Then during the penalty phase, the jury gave her a sentence of life in prison. The jury decided the sentence in less than forty minutes. She would also be eligible for parole in 2041, when she was 77. At this point she was transferred to Mountain View Unit, a state psychiatric prison in eastern Texas (Ramsland).
Theories: Positive School “Generally, we can divide positivist thinking into biological, psychological, and sociological camps” (Brown 236). With this definition of what Positive School is Andrea falls under two camps or categories. The two would be biological and psychological. For Andrea, they relate. As earlier stated in the section under illness, in her family history her brother had bipolar disorder. Her father, sister, and brother all suffered from depression (Spinelli). This would go underneath the biological category. Even though her family were not criminals, she gained her mental state from her family. Andrea did suffer from mental health problems. That was clear when the primary question in her case was whether she was in the state of psychosis when killing her five children. Therefore, this is where the second category comes in. The second category is psychological. It was clear that she had mental health problems. The first one is that she suffered from postpartum depression. This is a depression formed after having children. Then she suffered from severe depression. These are mental illnesses or psychological illnesses that could affect the way one feels about herself or love ones around. Also, psychologically, when she killed her five children it was clear that it was not the first time she had these thoughts. “She’d been having thoughts about hurting them over the past two years…She had almost done the same thing two months earlier, she admitted. She had filled the tub. Rusty was home at the time, so she just didn’t do it” (Ramsland). The Positive school of Criminology believes that crimes are caused by factors beyond control of individuals. Therefore, they look at the criminals and not the crime. This is true for the Andrea Yates’s case, because of the primary question; whether she killed them knowing what she was doing or was she in a psychotic state. However when the police asked her, she admitted to killing her five children Therefore, Positive School of Criminology is one part of theory.
Theories: Merton’s Strain Theory The Andrea Yates’s case falls under the Anomie part of Merton’s Strain Theory. “Social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values; also: personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals” (“Anomie”). In the Andrea Yates case, she had a breakdown. She had the breakdown due to where she felt like she was not a good enough mother. As was told earlier, she felt like she was not a good mother. She did have a breakdown of standards as a mother because she stopped feeding her children and even refusing to breast feed Mary. She also went through a phase during her depression of alienation. Before she had her second child, she would be social and even exercise. However, once the depression hit, she stopped all social contact and stayed at home. She even took this over into homeschooling her children. This led her to a mental breakdown, which was a factor in her killing her five children.
Theories: Control Theory Control theory views crime as predictable behavior that society has failed to bridle. It also sees crime as a consequence of the failure of social constraints. This fits the Andrea Yates case, for the reason that she felt like she was a bad mother. As society we set standards how one should be, what they should do as a mother, etc. Therefore, she felt like a failure to society when she did not feed her children and take care of them, because she did not realize that she was not feeding them due to her mental state. In her mind she believed she was a failure to society, and the only way to fix it was by not being a mother anymore. Also, another way she was not upholding society constraints is by being non-social or not talking to anyone. She stayed in her house and stopped all forms of activity or interaction with people once she had her second child, John. According to Control Theory, she committed the crime of killing her five children because she failed at a social constraint.

Conclusion The Andrea Yates’s case when first heard about seems unreal, but according to criminal theories it not an unreal. This unreal crime was Andrea drowning all five of her children and admitting to doing it. According to Positive School of Criminology, Merton’s Strain Theory, and Control Theory, it makes this crime not so shocking. As Positive School focuses on the criminal and not the crime, that is what the jury had to look at with Andrea’s case. So the primary question of the trial is did she know what she was doing while she was doing it or was she in a psychotic state. The jury said she knew, but did she really know according to the theories, is the bigger question.

Works Cited
"Andrea Yates Biography." Biography Channel. 30 Apr 2009 .
"Andrea Yates." KariSable. 30 Jan 2009. 26 Apr 2009 .
"anomie." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 30 April 2009 .

Brown, Stephen E., Finn-Aage Esbensen, and Gilbert Geis. Criminolgy: Explaining Crime and Its Context. 6th ed. Newark, New Jersey: Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., 2007. Print.
Eggebroten, Anne . "Rigid Christian Sex Roles Hurt Andrea Yates." Women's eNews. 20 Mar 2002. 26 Apr 2009 .
Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Andrea Yates." Crime/Punishment. 23 Apr 2009 .
Ramsland, Katherine. "Andrea Yates: Ill or Evil?." Trutv Crime Library. 23 Apr 2009 .
Spinelli, Margaret. "Perspectives on Postpartum Depression and the Andrea Yates Trials." Postpartum Support International. 30 Jan 2009. 26 Apr 2009 .

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