Husband Stands by Mom Charged With Murdering Five Children

The husband of the Houston woman charged with murdering their five children told reporters Thursday that he still loves and supports his wife, saying it was her severe depression that caused her to kill their kids.

"One side of me blames her because she did it, but the other side of me says she didn't," Russell Yates told reporters gathered on the sidewalk in front of the family's home. "She wasn't in the right frame of mind."

Pointing to his wife, Andrea Pia Yates, 36, on a family picture, he said, "The woman here is not the woman who killed my children."

Andrea Yates, who was said to be on medication for postpartum depression, was charged late Wednesday with capital murder. Police believe her children — Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months — may have been drowned in the bathtub.

Russell Yates, a computer specialist at NASA, explained that his wife had fully recovered from an earlier bout of postpartum depression after the birth of their fourth child two years ago. She had relapsed, he said, after their youngest child's birth was followed by the death of her father three months ago.

He added that his own mother, Dora Yates, had been staying with the family for the past two months while Andrea Yates fought to recover from her mental illness.

Dora Yates had no comment to reporters other than to say that she was also supportive of her daughter-in-law, adding that she was a "beautiful person."

Russell Yates, upon being asked about what sort of medication his wife was on, replied that she was being treated with Wellbutrin, an antidepressant with effects similar to Prozac or Zoloft, and Haldol, an antipsychotic.

Responding to questions about his wife possibly facing the death penalty for the killings, Russell Yates said, "That's up to the lawyers to decide."

But, he added, "I want to help her through this."

"Andrea, if you see this," he said to the television cameras, "I love you."

On Wednesday morning, Andrea Yates called police to her home and was wet and visibly distraught when she answered the door, police said. Inside, authorities found the bodies of all five children.

"When our responding officer arrived, he was met at the door by the woman, who was breathing heavily, and you could tell she was disturbed," police spokesman John Cannon said. "At that time she said to the officer, 'I killed my children.'"

Cannon said the officer asked where the children were and was led on a grisly tour. Found under a sheet on a bed were the infant Mary Yates and three of her brothers, Luke, Paul and John. The eldest child, Noah, was in the bathtub.

Russell Yates recalled Thursday that his wife had also telephoned her husband at work, telling him "You better come home."

He recalled asking her "Is it the kids? Are any of them hurt?" and that she replied, "Yes. All of them."

Yates' former sister-in-law, Marsha Kennedy-Sondergaard, said it just "doesn't seem like Andrea." She told NBC's Today show that Yates was smart, sweet and good with children.

Authorities believe the Yates children died from being drowned one by one, though the cause of death would not formally be known until after autopsies were conducted.

Cannon said Yates was charged with multiple counts of capital murder. He didn't have a specific number. The charges were filed about 9 p.m. CDT. Cannon said Yates had been transported downtown to the Harris County lockup.

According to Judy Hay, a spokeswoman for Children's Protective Services, records indicate the woman attempted suicide almost exactly two years ago, on June 18, 1999. Five days later, CPS was called because mental health officials worried the children didn't have proper care.

"We found them at their grandparents with their father," Hay said. "It was never assigned because there was no abuse or neglect."

Police spokesman Alvin Wright said the woman called her husband Wednesday morning shortly after calling police. He arrived about the same time police officers did but was kept out of the home.

The woman was led away in handcuffs from the one-story Spanish-style home in southeast Houston, not far from NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The three oldest boys attended a party over the weekend at the home of Raymond Rivera, whose grandson Rocky was celebrating his first birthday. The children smacked a piñata, ate cake and appeared to enjoy themselves.

"[The father] said his wife didn't want to come because she was depressed from having her baby, or something like that," Rivera said.

"What's scary is that it might have been anyone," said neighbor John Fancher. "My kids could have been staying over there."

Dr. Lauren Marangell, a Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrist who leads the school's mood disorders research program, said postpartum depression is treatable, rarely lasts more than a year and usually does not result in violence to others.

"With depression, you're typically more worried about [the patients] themselves," Marangell said. "With postpartum depression you do worry because you have a vulnerable infant at home."

"It is just rather unimaginable," Cannon said. "It's difficult to deal with when you are talking about five little kids who were killed, probably systematically."

The Associated Press contributed to this report