Andrea Yates timeline: A look back at the Clear Lake mother’s case after she drowned her 5 children in home’s bathtub

Andrea Yates, flanked by her lawyers, George Parnham, left, and Wendell Odom, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in her second murder trial in Houston on July 26, 2006. (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Take a look back at the case that rocked the Clear Lake community after a mother, Andrea Yates, killed her five children in her home’s bathtub in 2001.

June 20, 2001: NASA engineer Rusty Yates returns home from work to find his five children had been drowned at the hands of their mother in the home’s bathtub. Noah was 7; John was 5; Paul was 3; Luke was 2; and Mary was 6 months old.

Rusty Yates was at work at the time of the drowning. KPRC 2 retired reporter Phil Archer was the first reporter on the scene.

“Cops were crying. There was a lot of emotion there. They were the guys that had gone in that house and had to recover the bodies,” Archer said. “They brought Andrea out and her clothes were still wet, and her hair was still wet from the bathtub. And they brought her out, and she looked like a zombie. There was a sort of wildness in her eyes.”

Yates confessed to the killings after calling police to her home, reports said. A police video reportedly showed a wet sock in the hallway and the body of one of Yates’ children facedown in the bathtub. The other four bodies were laid on a bed and covered with a sheet.

A Google Map view of the Andrea Yates house.

March 15, 2002: Yates was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after being convicted of capital murder for the bathtub drowning deaths.

Aug. 3, 2004: Rusty Yates seeks divorce from Andrea Yates.

Jan. 7, 2005: In 2005, a Texas appeals court reversed the conviction and granted Yates a new trial after it was learned that prosecution witness Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, gave erroneous testimony that had influenced the jury, History.com reported. Yates testified in the new trial that she believed her children’s deaths would save their souls.

March 18, 2005: Rusty Yates and Andrea Yates’ divorce is finalized.

March 18, 2006: Rusty Yates remarries Laura Arnold at Clear Lake Church of Christ. He later had a son with her.

July 26, 2006: A jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity. On this date, she was committed to a state mental hospital in Texas and has been there ever since.

March 10, 2014: Lawyers withdrew their request to allow Yates to spend time outside of the state hospital where she is being treated. Her attorneys had been seeking approval for her to attend supervised group outings with other patients. According to a source close to the case, her attorneys withdrew the request because her health history would have been public record through the court system.

Unspecified date in 2015: Rusty Yates’ second wife files for divorce according to court filing.

Sept. 20, 2016: Yates’ attorney George Parnham, who has been her attorney since the initial trial, said he talks to her on a weekly basis.

“I’d say probably about every seven or eight days,” he said.

Parnham said Andrea Yates is doing “remarkably well.”

“There’s not a day that goes by where she doesn’t care for, talk about, is happy for her children’s lives before June the 20th and grieves for her children,” Parnham said.

He said Andrea Yates spends her days at the facility making crafts. According to people magazine, the crafts are sold anonymously to benefit charity. She also spends time watching videos of her children.

“The hospital where she is, there are no razor wires, there’s no bars, there’s no armed guards, no fences,” Parnham said.

For the most part, it’s a life of solitude. She never leaves the hospital and has few visitors. While her case comes up for review yearly, Andrea Yates has never sought to be released.


About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.