Discussion: The Houston Child Killings

  • Share
  • Read Later

Andrea Yates is escorted from her home by police

When Russell Yates picked up his office phone Wednesday morning, he heard his wife Andrea telling him to come home. "Is anyone hurt?" he asked. "Yes," she said. "Who?" he demanded. "The children," she replied. "All of them."

A panicked Yates sped home, where police were already gathered. His wife was being led away, and their five children, ranging in age from six months to seven years, were dead.

Andrea is being held without bail at a Houston jail. At a Friday morning court appearance, she told a District Court judge she could not afford to hire an attorney; the state will assign a public defender. Yates is expected to face at least one charge of capital murder. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.

The inevitable flood of questions that follows any incomprehensible crime has already begun. Few answers have emerged. How could Andrea Yates have done such a thing? Preliminary reports and Russell Yates' own statements indicate Andrea may have been suffering from an extreme case of post-partum depression, a fairly common mood disorder that affects as many as 25 percent of new mothers. Or she may have had other, deeper psychological problems.

Didn't anyone notice something was very wrong with Andrea? Russell Yates, who appeared drawn but composed Thursday morning, told reporters he will spend the rest of his life wondering if he could have done something to stop his wife's rampage. She seemed sad, he said, but she'd gotten better before. And never, he said, even in his worst nightmares, did he consider his wife capable of murdering their children.

Should Andrea Yates be sentenced to death? Tell us what you think.