What Should Done With Andrea Yates?

By Kimberley Jane Wilson
Featured Rightgrrl May 1999
November 30, 2001

Mary Yates is dead. She was drowned in the bathtub of her own home but don't expect the National Organization for Women to shed any tears on her behalf. You see little Mary was only 6 months old when she along with her brothers Paul, Luke, John and Noah were murdered by their mother Andrea Pia Yates. According to NOW the tragedy in this story is not the deaths of five children but the "persecution" of their oppressed mother. The reactions to these deaths has been almost as disturbing as the killings themselves.

Celebrities such as Rosie O'Donnel and Katie Couric publicly expressed sympathy for the killer of five children. Columnist Anna Quindlen went so far as to imply that any woman trapped in the house with five screaming kids would go insane. The public has been told in editorial after editorial that Mrs. Yates is just another victim of America's inability to deal with mental illness.

Sorry. I can't get on the bandwagon. When I close my eyes I can almost see seven year old Noah Yates running frantically through the house and being dragged back to a watery death. Noah, Luke, Paul, John and Mary are not abstractions. They weren't mere footnotes to an otherwise interesting case study. They were human beings and they are dead.

Four hundred years ago women like Andrea Yates were thought to be possessed by demons. Today a Texas jury made up of eleven women and one man must decide whether she is sick or evil. Like most people I cringe from the idea that anyone could do such a horrible thing while in their right mind and I hope that Mrs. Yates really is mentally ill. However, mental illness should not give her a free pass for murder.

Her madness was a stealthy, cunning kind that shows she's in control of her planning faculties. She did not attack her children while any other adult was present but waited to pounce until her husband left for work and before her mother-in-law could arrive. If Andrea is mentally ill then she must go a hospital for the criminally insane. Sending her home with a bag full of anti-depressant pills and a weekly appointment with a psychiatrist is not going to cut it.

If that sounds harsh to you ask yourself how you'd feel if it had been Russell Yates who slaughtered five innocents instead of Andrea? Would anybody be campaigning for his release or raising money for his defense?

Almost 30 years ago a sad little man named John List became dangerously depressed. His wife was seriously ill. His pre-teen daughter wanted to become an actress-something that filled the Puritanical List with horror and his mother who lived with the family was both stern and demanding. On top of all this John List had fallen behind with his bills and was unhappy at work. His answer to these woes was simple. He chose to wipe out his family. John List Jr., like little Noah Yates managed to run for his life but was relentlessly hunted down. Once his family was dead John List left a note for his pastor and walked away. He lived as a fugitive for two decades but was finally captured. There was no outcry for "poor" John List. His miserable mental state at the time of the murders was not accepted as an excuse.

If this country has learned anything in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it should be that human life is precious. Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah Yates weren't just Andrea and Russell Yates's kids they were real human beings who fell victims to a terrible fate. When the decision is made about what should be done with Andrea Pia Yates that fate must not be forgotten.

Copyright 2001 by Kimberley Jane Wilson. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.