Doctors Say Andrea Yates Attempted Suicide Twice Before Killing Kids

Andrea Yates attempted suicide twice in 1999, first swallowing about 50 sleeping pills and then holding a knife to her throat, according to testimony at her retrial for the 2001 bathtub drownings of her children.

After the knife incident, Yates was taken to a psychiatric hospital, psychologist James P. Thompson testified. He said she recounted a hallucination for another psychologist, saying she had decided to hurt herself instead of someone else.

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Yates wouldn't say who she wanted to hurt, Thompson said. When Yates was asked to write a "spontaneous" sentence during psychological testing, he said, she printed in all capital letters: "I love my husband and kids."

Thompson testified for the defense Thursday. Yates was convicted of capital murder in 2002, but her conviction was overturned by an appeals court because of erroneous testimony. The defense plans to call more witnesses Friday.

Yates, 42, has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. Her attorneys have never disputed that she killed her five children but say she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and didn't know her actions were wrong. Prosecutors argue that she knew what she was doing.

They say Yates planned the drownings when she'd be alone with the youngsters, after her husband went to work and before her mother-in-law arrived. Then Yates called 911 and later told a detective she killed the children because she was a bad mother and wanted to be punished, prosecution witnesses testified last week.

Dr. James N. Flack, a psychiatrist, testified Thursday that he saw Yates in June 1999 after she was taken to the emergency room for suicide attempt, a sleeping pill overdose, when the family was living in a bus.

She was released on the conditions that relatives closely watch her and that she see a psychiatrist, Flack said.

Dr. Ellen Allbritton, a psychiatrist, testified that Yates had to be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital in March 2001. She said Yates' husband had brought her because she had become more depressed since giving birth to her fifth child, Mary, in November 2000 and since her father had died that March.

Allbritton said Yates barely spoke or moved and seemed like she "wasn't really there."

After Yates was released in early April, her mother-in-law arrived from Tennessee to help care for 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah.

In the days leading up to the slayings, Andrea Yates paced in circles around the house, scratched her head and stared at walls, her mother-in-law, Dora Yates, testified. On June 19, Andrea stood and stared at cartoons while the children and their grandmother sat and watched them, the older woman said. The next day the children were dead.

Yates is being tried in only three of the children's deaths and will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. After the first jury rejected execution, prosecutors could not seek the death penalty again because they found no new evidence.