Houston Mom's Mental Decline Documented by Best Friend

Andrea Yates' best friend testified that she was so concerned about the Houston mom's deteriorating mental condition that she kept a journal documenting her observations.

In the months before Yates drowned her five children, Debbie Holmes noted her friend paced around her home like a "scared animal," smelled like she hadn't bathed in days and lost weight.

"I was very concerned about my friend," Holmes testified Thursday at Yates' capital murder trial for the drowning deaths of three of the children. "I was calling my sister and my other family members constantly crying.

"I was very frustrated at the lack of care I thought she was receiving."

Holmes' sister suggested she write her observations down "in case something bad happens."

Portions of the journal are now evidence in Yates' trial for the June 20 deaths of 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and 6-month-old Mary. Charges could be filed later in the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.

Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. She faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

Yates' mother, Jutta Karin Kennedy, and Dr. Phillip Resnick, an expert witness for the defense, were expected to testify Friday.

In early Friday testimony, a psychiatrist who interviewed Andrea Yates five days after she drowned her five children testified that she told him what she had done was wrong.

But Dr. Steven Rosenblatt said it was uncertain when she came to that conclusion.

"She may have an opinion but I could not tell how long she had those opinions," Rosenblatt said. "Someone might on Day 1 have a particular view of something and on Day 5 have a totally different view."

Asked by defense attorneys if he could say whether Yates knew the difference between right and wrong on the day she killed her children, Rosenblatt replied: "I can only say on the one time I saw her, she presented to me that it was wrong."

At least one juror was brought to tears on Thursday, when Holmes broke down while recounting how she learned on the television news that her friend had been accused of drowning her children.

"I fell on the floor and just cried," Holmes testified. "I was screaming, 'It can't be my Andrea. It can't be my Andrea."'

Holmes said she tried to help her friend of 16 years, but her efforts only got her so far.

"A couple of times I called her husband and I was crying and sobbing: 'She needs help now. NOW! Not next week!"' Holmes said.

Russell Yates, who took the stand before Holmes, said he saw no reason not to leave his children alone with his wife the day of the drownings. He said he knew she was sick, but thought she would be fine for the few hours between when he left for work and his mother arrived to help.

"At the time, I didn't think she was dangerous; none of us did," Yates said.

He said that he and his wife agreed to pursue a simple, traditional life.

"Man is the breadwinner and woman is the homemaker," Yates told prosecutor Joe Owmby under cross-examination. "It's the way it's been for years."

Social worker Earline Wilcott, who counseled Andrea Yates for years, testified Thursday that she met Russell Yates once and learned that his beliefs included that a wife should submit to her husband.

Holmes said she pleaded with Russell Yates to get his wife medical help but was told Andrea Yates was just sad about her father's death last March.

After the birth of Yates' fifth child, followed a few months later by her father's death, Yates quickly took a downward tumble, Holmes said.

Yates had attempted suicide twice after the birth of her fourth son and Holmes worried her friend was again suffering postpartum depression after Mary's birth in November 2000.

Holmes said Yates received treatment at a mental health facility on two separate occasions last April and May.

While Yates was in the hospital, Holmes testified, Russell Yates couldn't understand why his wife couldn't keep up with taking care of the children and home-schooling them. She said he admired another woman in the family's neighborhood who had nine children.

"'She's got nine kids, teaches her kids tee ball and she does just fine. I don't know why Andrea's having so much trouble,"' Russell Yates said, according to Holmes' testimony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.