LOS ANGELES – Nikolay Soltys and Andrea Yates — two accused murderers with a history of psychiatric instability whose cases are being treated in two very different ways.
Soltys has been arrested for the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, three-year-old son and four other family members near Sacramento, Calif. Investigators call the crimes vicious.
In Texas, Yates faces capital murder charges. Police say she confessed to drowning her five children in the bathtub of her Houston home. The coroner's report shows that two of her sons waged a frightful struggle to stay alive.
Still, to many people, Yates is an unfortunate victim of postpartum depression while Soltys is looked upon as a cold-blooded killer.
"Women are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore," Diana Lynn-Barnes of the Center for Postpartum Health said.
"There is a tremendous amount of compassion for Andrea Yates because the sense is among these women, that they can see how one could go down this road," she said.
A support coalition in Yates' name has been established by the National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Many women — and some celebrities — have come out in support of Yates, including comedian Rosie O'Donnell, who has expressed her 'overwhelming empathy' for the mother, and NBC's Katie Couric, who has publicized Yates' fund on the Today show.
"[Andrea Yates] is a victim of a culture that says women come last," Lynn-Barnes said.
"She is a victim of a culture that supports the notion that women's needs are not as important as everyone else in the family," she said.
But Yates' critics don't see in her case a woman's issue as much as they see a human issue.
"I don't think it's a women's issue at all," Los Angeles radio talk show host Larry Elder said.
"I think this is an issue about whether or not a particular individual who happened to be a woman, appreciated the rightfulness or wrongfulness of her actions," he said.
So the question that comes to some people's minds, including that of Elder, is why Yates' case should be treated differently than Soltys'.
"[Nikolay Soltys] is a man who did not make the Ukrainian army because of mental instability. Neighbors say that he was mentally unstable. Where is the love for him? Where is the support group for him? Again, selective outrage and double standard," he said.
A September 11th hearing will decide whether Yates is fit to stand trial. The courts will ultimately decide whether postpartum depression saves her life.
If he's convicted, Nikolay Soltys may have a much harder harder time staying off death row.