January 25, 2004
Yates followup

I always find it difficult to read articles about Andrea and Rusty Yates and their children. This is no exception.

It's been almost three years since [Andrea] drowned the boys and 6-month-old Mary in the bathtub in their home. Interviews with people close to the convicted murderer reveal that her life has become a hazy blend of grief, tedium, mental illness. Rusty says he feels as if he's imprisoned, too.

Supporters say she should be detained in a psychiatric hospital, not a prison.

Those are fighting words in Houston, usually comfortable with its Wild West approach to crime and criminals. The Yates case, however, is different. Defense lawyers are pushing for a new trial, the case still is a cause célèbre among mental health advocates, and local debate is as divisive as ever.

One camp sees Andrea, 39, as a cold-blooded murderer. What could be worse, they ask, than a mother who holds her children, one by one, facedown in a tub until they quit struggling? She deserves her life sentence, they say.

Kaylynn Williford, one of the assistant district attorneys who prosecuted the case, thinks Yates deserves to be executed.

"If Andrea Yates had been a man, the public reaction would have been very different. Here were five beautiful children who didn't get a chance to grow up, five beautiful children who didn't want to die. Think about the fear those children went through at the hands of their mother -- the one person they expected to defend them."

First of all, it's bad enough that non-Texan reporters, whose impressions of this state are still apparently colored by the TV show Dallas, make Wild West references. It's beyond annoying when a Chron writer reaches for that tired stereotype.

Second, I continue to hold our DA's office in contempt for their treatment of Andrea Yates. If this woman isn't mentally ill, then the concept has no meaning. Justice isn't only about maximizing punishment.

[The possibility that] all Houstonians bear some responsibility for Yates' crimes is discussed in Suzanne O'Malley's new book, Are You There Alone? -- The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates.

The book was a sore point with some of Andrea's family members. Rusty Yates said he has found a few errors but generally is satisfied with O'Malley's work.

Small wonder, Andrea's immediate family thinks. Rusty, 39, is painted in a flattering light -- devoted husband, devoted father, devoted nurse to Andrea.

The Kennedy family believes Rusty and his decisions about how they would live are at least partly responsible for Andrea's downfall. Rusty was the one who met traveling evangelist Michael Woroniecki, admired his message and introduced him to Andrea. Though the two men have had a falling out, it's widely believed that the itinerant preacher inadvertently supplied Andrea with the framework for her psychotic delusions.

She told her doctors she believed Satan lived within her, her children were going to hell and she had to kill them while they were young so God would accept them in heaven.

Rusty, the leader and authority figure in the Yates household, is commonly blamed for other decisions -- such as to home-school the children or live in a converted bus -- that made life more difficult for Andrea.

At times Rusty is bitter about the criticism he has received from near and far. He was a devoted nurse. He desperately wanted his wife to get well. Early on, he was ignorant about her mental health problems, but most Americans are slow to recognize the signs and symptoms. He tried to work and juggle his responsibilities to Andrea and the children. That he couldn't do everything and be everywhere was no surprise.

Incompetent doctors, insurance companies more concerned about the size of the bill than the quality of treatment, a legal system seeking an eye for an eye -- those are the villains in the Andrea Yates story, he said, not him.

Publicly, the Kennedy and Yates families try to maintain a united front for Andrea's sake.

Rusty's a hard guy to sympathize with. Maybe he's not as bad as the media coverage has made him out to be, but it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that his lifestyle choices were major factors in Andrea's descent. Still, he's the one who has to face the public and go on with life. I surely don't envy him that.

While Rusty throws himself into his job at NASA, he ponders what to do with his personal life. He tries to get organized. He works on his Web site.

A while back, Yates sold the family Suburban and bought a Suburu. He moved into an apartment and fixed up the family home on Beachcomber to sell.

It's still on the market. He says, wistfully, that another family may buy it and establish happy memories there.

He wants to be involved in the Yates Children Memorial Fund for Women's Mental Health Education, launched by the Mental Health Association of Houston and [defense attorney George] Parnham after the trial. The idea, Rusty said, is to educate new mothers about postpartum illnesses and to make sure his babies didn't die in vain.

"What happened in my family will always be with me and associated with me," Rusty said. "But I would like people to know we had a great family. I'd like people to know something good can come from all this, and I want to be a part of it."

Whatever else one may think of Rusty Yates, the Yates Children Memorial Fund for Women's Mental Health Education sounds like an unmitigated boon. I wish him a lot of success with that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2004 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

Now, me personally, I would like people to see that Rusty Yates' testicles have been sawed off with the raggedy-edged top to a catfood can, but we can't have everything in this sad fallen world.

His preacher friend, too.

Andrea Yates is, from everything I can see, in hell.

I see some value in putting her in a section of hell with nicer furniture and less possibility of being killed.

Posted by: julia on January 25, 2004 1:45 PM

Justice isn't only about maximizing punishment. - CK

To Chucky Rosenthal, I'm pretty sure that is exactly what it's about, and all it's about. He's proud of Harris County's grisly status as the top producer of death penalties.

His preacher friend, too. - Julia

Couldn't you at least have recommended a dog food can?

I'm glad you mentioned the preacher. Rusty is of course no blameless innocent, but even in his absence, if Susan Yates had encountered the preacher in any other context, the tragic result may well have been the same. Mentally ill people (and anyone who thinks Susan Yates is not seriously mentally ill to the point of incompetency is, ah, crazy) are particularly vulnerable to hellfire-and-damnation men of the cloth. There is no way to criminalize such preaching, and I'm not suggesting that course, but I do hold that man partially responsible for what happened.

Full disclosure: I gave money to Susan Yates's defense fund. I am not anywhere close to objective about this.

Posted by: Steve Bates on January 25, 2004 5:10 PM

No one outside my family knows anything or anyone connected to this tragedy. What people outside the family know is nothing but sound-bytes and news-bytes. Harris County is also proud of their garage band within the DA office, "Death by Injection". The former DA - Johnny Holmes, whom Rosenthal promised to follow in the steps of - called everyone he sent to death row "a member of the silver needle club". All that is fun info for people who have never been touched by such a tragedy. The prosecuting attorneys are just as tasteless as anyone else in the DA's office. They are about winning and image - nothing else in Harris County.

Posted by: Rev. Fairy Caroland on February 1, 2004 7:28 PM

For a closer look at the Cultic Yates preacher, Michael Woroniecki (AKA Warnecki, Worneki etc.), check out my site at http://hometown.aol.com/pranalite/main.html .

I now have a 5 minute video with excerpts from the famed "Devil Mask Video" that psychiatrist Lucy Puryear says was instrumental in establishing Yates delusions. She really has no idea how much more significant this video was to Andrea's downfall, as my mini-documentary reveals.

The link directly to the video page is http://hometown.aol.com/tensiontally/video.html

I've also summarized the entire video with text and still images.


Posted by: Niek0 on February 8, 2004 1:39 PM

1) Andrea Yates was healthy and happy when she married that POS Rusty. She was always religious, but her descent into mental illness began when her father died. She was clinically depressed after that. Her post partum psychosis was most severe after her third baby-this is when Rusty caught her in the bathroom, holding a butcher knife to her own throat because Satan was telling her to kill herself. The doctors told them NO MORE BABIES--but did they listen? No, Rusty wanted his "basketball team" and to h**l with what was best for Andrea. He is, and was, a male chauvinist pig who has petitioned for divorce from his wife so it's rumored he can marry again. Guess those religious vows "in sickness and in health" and "till death do us part" don't apply to him.

Posted by: Michelle Miller on December 7, 2004 1:46 PM

From what I can tell neither Andrea nor Rusty was working with a full deck. The website he's created since the children died is eerie, kind of like a huge house with no furniture. Maybe it's a metaphor for his emotional reality.

Andrea seems to have been a submissive and basically ignorant person who allowed herself to become a slave to Rusty and his sick religious beliefs. She chose that, and maybe it was a bad choice but it was hers.

Rusty seems a lot more psychotic than she does, if you watch him in the interviews around the time of the kids' deaths or even today. He just does not connect to the reality of what happened at all. Then again, he's a physicist.

Posted by: Sprocket on November 7, 2005 7:07 AM

Religious freaks like Rusty Yates think that nothing bad or harmful will ever come their way because "god will take care of us," which is probably why he continued to breed well knowing his wife was mentally ill and the docs said no more kids. "Oh, but it won't happen to us, god wants us to have as many kids as we can." Phooey.

Posted by: KidFreeLuvnLife on January 12, 2006 1:38 PM

And last night, I saw in the news that this irresponsible man is getting remarried! Who, on earth, gets to be so stupid as wanting to marry this kind of man?????
I guess there are sick-desperate women out there.

Posted by: devi dewata on March 16, 2006 2:07 PM

I've read alot about this case and I feel for the people around this tragedy. Mental illness is a strange thing. Remember, Rusty is a guy. Who works alot and has responsibilities around the home. He was probably cluless when it came to mental illness issues. Now we can look back and see the signs but at the time he was not looking at his wife that way. Again, he is just a man and the do miss alot.

Posted by: MrsLevinson on March 20, 2006 12:52 PM