Preacher Said He Tried to Save Yates Family

ByABC News via logo
March 26, 2002, 9:57 PM

N E W   Y O R K, March 27 -- A traveling evangelist, whose fire-and-brimstone teachings were embraced by Andrea and Russell Yates, says he shouldn't be blamed for Andrea Yates' decision to drown her five children.

Michael Woroniecki, the Yates' spiritual mentor, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he told the Yateses that they were going to hell during the couple's visit in 1998.

"Of course, because everybody is going to hell," said Woroniecki, adding that he doesn't think his preaching against Satan and hell sent Andrea over the edge.

"I shared Jesus with them," Woroniecki said, adding that he warned Russell Yates over and over again that Andrea and the children were in great need of his love.

"I hold him responsible [for the drownings] but I also hold Andrea responsible. God knows what we shared with those people," he said.

Andrea Yates, 37, was convicted this month of two capital murder charges filed in the killings of her children last June and was sentenced to life in prison. Her attorneys presented an insanity defense, contending it was severe psychosis from postpartum depression that drove her to drown 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary.

Saving Their Souls

The day after Andrea Yates drowned her five children, she told doctors that she did it to save them from going to hell. Her defense attorney and psychiatrist said Yates got the idea from the Woroniecki.

Woroniecki called the defense's claims "ridiculous."

Yates' attorney, George Parnham, put into evidence a copy of Woroniecki's newsletter The Perilous Times, that was sent to the Yates family.

It contains a poem which laments the disobedient kids of the "Modern Mother Worldly" and ends with the question, "What becomes of the children of such a Jezebel?" Jezebel is a biblical figure most commonly associated with spiritual deception.

Even the prosecution used the preacher in its case against Yates. Park Dietz, the forensic psychiatrist for the prosecution in the Yates case, said the pressure to follow Woroniecki's lifestyle, by living on a bus with five children, was a factor in Andrea's two previous suicide attempts.