Psychiatrist testifies she warned Andrea Yates against having a fifth baby
HOUSTON – A psychiatrist testified Friday that she warned Andrea Yates not to have any more children after she tried to commit suicide twice within months of having her fourth child in 1999.”I could pretty much predict that Mrs. Yates would have another episode of psychosis,” Dr. Eileen Starbranch told jurors in Yates’ second murder trial.Starbranch said Yates suffered from postpartum psychosis, which she said causes a mother to have delusions and lose touch with reality, making it much more severe than postpartum depression.Yates drowned her five young children in a bathtub in June 2001, six months after the birth of her youngest child, Mary. She is being tried again because an appeals court overturned her 2002 murder conviction based on erroneous testimony that might have influenced the jury. She has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.Yates’ attorneys have never disputed she killed the youngsters but say she didn’t know that the drownings were wrong.Prosecutors say Yates may be mentally ill but does not meet the state’s definition of insanity.They say Yates planned to drown the children when she was alone with them, after her husband went to work and before her mother-in-law arrived. Then Yates called 911 and later told a detective she killed them because she was a bad mother and wanted to be punished, according to witnesses.Along with Mary, Yates drowned 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah.Starbranch said she treated Yates after she tried to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills in June 1999.About a month later, Starbranch said, Yates’ then-husband, Rusty, told her that Yates had held a knife to her own throat the previous day.Starbranch said Yates had a bald spot on her head from scratching it, had not been taking her anti-psychotic medication, had filthy hair and could not function. Starbranch said she sent the couple immediately to a mental hospital so Andrea Yates could be admitted.Under cross-examination, Starbranch acknowledged that the words “filthy” and “catatonic” were not in her notes and said that Yates’ nervousness and anxiety may have been a sign that she simply did not want to be at a psychiatrist’s office. But Starbranch maintained that Yates was psychotic and not lethargic or exhausted from caring for four young children.Over the next two weeks or so while hospitalized, Yates steadily improved while on anti-psychotic drugs, Starbranch said.But then in March 2001, Rusty Yates called Starbranch’s office trying to make an appointment, saying his wife was getting worse since having the couple’s fifth child in November, Starbranch testified.”I knew that was a very ominous sign … that lives were at stake, so I asked that she be brought in immediately,” Starbranch said.The couple never showed up, but Starbranch later learned that Yates was admitted to another mental hospital, the psychiatrist testified.Yates, being tried in only three of the children’s deaths, will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. After the first jury rejected execution, prosecutors could not seek the death penalty again because they found no new evidence.