Insanity Verdict

ByABC News
November 18, 2008, 1:42 PM

July 27, 2006 — -- Nobody would have imagined that this seemingly loving, devoted mom would ever harm her own flesh and blood. So why did Andrea Yates do it?

She and her husband, Rusty, had five children in six years, home-schooling them all. There was 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary. Doctors advised Yates not to have the fifth baby because of a previous bout she'd with postpartum psychosis.

But Dr. Lucy Puryear, a well-known psychiatrist who evaluated Yates, said her husband wanted another child, despite the fact that the couple had been told about the doctors' concerns. Rusty reportedly believed that since his wife had been treated for the previous episode it was OK to have another child, because if she fell into postpartum psychosis again, she would just get treatment.

"Postpartum psychosis occurs again and again -- and each episode is usually worse than the last. And this was about as bad as it gets," Puryear said.

What happened on the morning of June 20, 2001, seemed beyond comprehension. Andrea Yates, a former nurse and the valedictorian of her high school, had methodically drowned her five children, one by one, in the family's bathtub.

Images of the children on home movies and pictures -- and then in five tiny coffins -- horrified the nation.

Yates was placed in solitary confinement -- naked and on suicide watch -- where she became even more delusional.

But this didn't happen overnight. Yates said she had been haunted by disturbing thoughts for a long time.

"Initially, when I first saw her it was two weeks after the drowning. I went to see her in the Harris County jail, and she was so ill that it was impossible to question her. She was disoriented, confused, looking off into corner of room, listening to voices in her head," Puryear said.

Today, after five years of medication and therapy, we see a different Andrea Yates in tapes that were released exclusively to "Primetime."

Yates recalled how it felt when she went to jail. "That evening, I had some hallucinations and visions when I got to the cell. At Harris County, I had visions of being bound, and somebody peeling my skin away. I could hear the sound of the skin being torn away, and I thought I saw Jesus hanging upside down on the cross. And I had visions that [her son] Noah was Christ. He'd come back to earth," said Yates.

In the tapes, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who was hired by the prosecution, interviewed Yates for 14 hours. Welner said the tapes show Yates as an overwhelmed mother who methodically and deliberately murdered her children.

Yates even has a reason why each child was doomed. "I had visions, for instance, that John was gonna be a serial killer and that the other children would die tragic deaths and that Luke would become a mute homosexual prostitute. ... Noah would die a tragic death ... being stabbed."