One month after Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub, the Houston mother sat with a defense psychiatrist and offered her own accounting of that tragic day.
"Did you want to hurt the children?" Dr. Lucy Puryear asked in a videotaped session.
"No," Yates said.
"No? You tried very hard not to?" the psychiatrist asked.
Heavily medicated by anti-psychotic drugs, Yates just nodded.
The tape was seen by the jury that convicted Yates in March of murdering her children. The 37-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison. Media organizations sought public release of the tape, which a judge made available today.
On the tape, Yates is dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit as she sits and slowly answers the questions posed to her.
"And then Luke was born and that was when you started having frightening thoughts and feelings again? Do you remember what they were?" Puryear asked. A long pause followed.
In an interview, Puryear said Yates may seem ill on the tape but she was actually much improved.
"The first time I saw her I probably spent about 12 minutes with her," the doctor said. "She was sitting in a very small interview room shaking with absolutely no facial expression and almost mute."
But even in her confused state, Yates was clear about her motivation — killing her children was an attempt to save them from going to hell.
Puryear: "What did you think would happen to the children when they were killed? What did you think would happen?"
Yates: "In their innocence, they'd go to heaven."
Puryear: "They'd go to heaven?"
Puryear: "You were worried about them going to hell?"
Puryear: "You thought that was a possibility?"
Yates: "I just thought since they were so young … (cries)."
Prosecutors agreed with the defense that Yates was mentally ill but the legal standard in Texas is: Did she know right from wrong? This tape suggests she did.
Puryear: "What did you think would happen after you killed your children?"
Yates: "I'd be arrested."
Puryear said Yates had a mild form of schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis and tried to kill herself. Yates was also warned not to have a fifth child, the doctor said.
Yates: "I was washing my hands at the sink and there was a knife there and the voice was telling me …"
Puryear: "Telling you what?"
Yates: "Telling me to hurt Noah."
Puryear: "To hurt Noah with the knife?"
Puryear said prosecutors did not understand that Yates was a sick woman, not an evil one.
"People couldn't get beyond what she did and I did understand that," Puryear said. "I have a hard time going there myself."