Andrea Yates' Chilling Motive For Murdering Her Children

On the morning of June 20, 2001, Russell (Rusty) Yates went to work at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he was employed as an engineer. As reported by The Lancet, his wife, Andrea, stayed home with the couple's five children: 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke, and 6-month-old Mary.

When Rusty returned home from work, he was horrified to learn that all five of his children were dead and that Andrea confessed to drowning them in the bathtub. The heartbreaking incident gained international attention and left everyone wondering what would motivate a mother to kill her own children. On the surface, the case appeared to be clear cut. However, The Lancet reports it was eventually revealed that Andrea had a history of mental health issues, which included depression and episodes of psychosis.

According to My Plainview, Rusty and Andrea Yates were married on April 17, 1993. Prior to their marriage, The Lancet reports that Andrea worked as a nurse at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. However, she resigned with the expectation of having children and staying home to care for them.

Andrea Yates began experiencing delusions after the birth of her first child

Rusty and Andrea Yates' first child, Noah, was born on February 26, 1994. Shortly thereafter, Andrea experienced a frightening hallucination, in which she believed Satan instructed her to stab someone with a knife. It is unclear whether Andrea had any more hallucinations between 1994 and the birth of her fourth child, Luke, in February 1999. However, My Plainview reports that Luke's birth seemed to cause Andrea's mental health challenges to escalate.

On June 16, 1999, Rusty was at work when he received a frantic phone call from Andrea — who asked him to come home immediately. When he arrived home, he found his wife crying inconsolably. She was also shaking and appeared to be in great distress. The following day, Andrea overdosed on Trazodone, which was prescribed to her father and, according to Medline Plus, is used to treat depression.

As reported by The Lancet, Andrea was then admitted to a mental health facility. However, she was released prematurely as her insurance provider would only cover a limited number of days for inpatient mental healthcare.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute on Mental Health website.

Andrea Yates' mental health declined following the birth of their fourth child

When Andrea Yates was discharged from the mental health facility, The Lancet reports that she was prescribed antidepressants. However, she refused to take the medication. Less than one month after her release, My Plainview reports Andrea held a knife to her neck and threatened to take her own life.

As reported by The Lancet, Rusty Yates managed to get the knife away from his wife before she was seriously injured. However, she insisted that she was still hearing voices, which told her to "get a knife." Andrea was once again admitted to a mental health facility, where she was treated with several medications, including an antipsychotic. By all accounts, the medications were effective in treating Andrea's depression and the psychotic episodes. However, upon release, Andrea was hesitant to continue taking the medications as she became convinced they contained a "truth serum."

The Lancet goes on to state that Andrea's doctors believed that her psychosis was somehow caused or exacerbated by childbirth and attempted to dissuade her from having any more children. However, My Plainview reports that Andrea gave birth to her fifth child, Mary, on November 30, 2000.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Andrea Yates had a fifth child against her doctor's recommendation

Although Andrea Yates seemed stable following Mary's birth, she became severely depressed after her father's death in February 2001. According to The Lancet, Andrea stopped caring for herself and refused to speak to anyone. She also began pulling her hair out and experiencing even more delusions. As her mental health continued to decline, Rusty Yates had his wife admitted to another facility for treatment.

Andrea was once again prescribed antipsychotic medication and seemed to show a degree of improvement. She is reported as eating and drinking, but she still displayed symptoms of depression and was reluctant to speak to anyone. As reported by The Lancet, she was discharged from the facility after only 10 days.

Upon returning home, Andrea began to display even more erratic behavior. On at least one occasion, she filled the bathtub with water for no apparent reason. When Rusty's mother questioned her about it, Andrea simply said that she wanted it full in case she "needed it." As her mental health did not improve and appeared to be getting worse, My Plainview reports that Rusty had Andrea readmitted to the mental health facility on May 4, 2001. However, she was again discharged after only 10 days.

Andrea Yates' last appointment with her psychiatrist was only two days before she killed her children

Andrea Yates' psychiatrist decided to wean her off the antipsychotic medication, per The Lancet. Although Rusty Yates objected, as he was becoming increasingly concerned about his wife's mental health, the doctor said that she would be better off without the "bad medicine." During the last visit with her psychiatrist, which was on June 18, 2001, the doctor told Andrea to "think positive thoughts." Two days later, she drowned all five of her children.

After drowning each of her five children, Andrea called 911 and asked them to come to the house. She also called Rusty and asked him to come home from work. When authorities arrived on scene, Andrea said, "I killed my kids." Following her arrest, The Lancet states that Andrea said that she was thinking about killing her children for as long as two years. She also revealed that she did not believe her children were developing as expected. Andrea said that she was marked by Satan and voices told her that she was a bad mother. She became convinced that killing her children would ultimately destroy Satan and, in turn, prevent her children from going to hell.

Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity

Andrea Yates was ultimately charged with capital murder in the deaths of all five of her children. Although she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, she was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison. According to The Lancet, the original conviction was ultimately overturned. At the conclusion of her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental health facility. Yates was not given a specific end date for her commitment. People reports that Andrea declines a review for release from the facility each year.

Yates' highly-publicized arrest and court proceedings brought international attention to postpartum disorders. According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression, which is commonly referred to as the "baby blues," is not uncommon and is a generally short-term disorder. Postpartum psychosis, however, is far more rare, and can be debilitating. Fortunately, a vast majority of postnatal disorders can be effectively treated if recognized early enough.

The devastating case also prompted several states, including Texas, to pass legislation requiring doctors to provide pregnant women with information and resources about postpartum disorders. It also prompted an increased focus on women's mental health disorders in general.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute on Mental Health website.