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Yates' husband blames others for wife's actions

Russell Yates: "We didn't see her as a danger."  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Andrea Yates' husband lashed out at the justice system Friday, accusing prosecutors of vicimizing his wife after her mental illness was not properly diagnosed or treated.

Yates was sentenced to life in prison Friday for drowning her five children, and prosecutors said justice was served by that outcome. But her husband, Russell Yates, said most of his family "were offended that she was even prosecuted."

"Obviously, it could be worse if she'd been given the death penalty, but it wouldn't have been that much worse," Yates said after the jury that convicted his wife of capital murder voted against sentencing her to death.

Yates also was bitter about how the medical and insurance system handled the treatment of his wife's mental illness. Yates said his wife's doctor and the hospital where he took his wife for treatment "miserably failed us."

Once Andrea Yates was released by the hospital, her husband said, there was little he could have done to stop his wife from acting on her delusions.

Russell Yates, husband of Andrea Yates, says his family sought medical help for his wife prior to her killing their children (March 15)

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"If it hadn't been by drowning while we were gone, it would have been smothering them at night or poisoning them at breakfast," Yates said. He urged families of the mentally ill to seek out the best psychiatrist in their city rather than depend on the guidelines of their insurance plan.

"Let the doctor treat you," he said. "Don't let some caseworker at some insurance company decide your treatment. He added that as someone with no medical training, he didn't know what psychosis was or how to recogize it.

Russell Yates said the sentencing freed him from a gag order that kept him from defending himself, his family and his wife from public misconceptions. He said he and his mother had taken over almost all responsibility for the care of the children, and he never saw any sign that Andrea would hurt them.

"We didn't see her as a danger," said Yates. "The real question to me is: How could she have been so ill and the medical community not diagnose her, not treat her, and obviously not protect our family from her?"

Yates said he would always support Andrea, but it bothers him that she did not warn him about her thoughts about killing their children.

"If she had said anything about that, we may have decided not to have any more children," he said.

When his wife was first hospitalized after a suicide attempt in 1999, it took doctors several weeks to devise an effective treatment.

Only after his wife's treatment with the anti-psychotic agent Haldol proved "miraculous," he said, did they decide to have a fifth child -- confident that if her post-partum depression were to return, "we could nip it in the bud by recognizing the symptoms early, getting treatment early."

He added, "If they had given her the same medications, left her in the hospital until she was well, any number of things in her medical treatment, this never would have happened."

Yates said he still supports and believes in his wife. If he thought his wife had been sane when she killed their children, "I'd be the first in line to help the jury."

Immediately after the sentence was returned, Yates visited his wife -- who was heavily medicated throughout the trial -- in jail and said she was in "pretty good spirits." Yates said that, when he prays, he talks to his children.

"I will ask them to pray for Andrea. They loved their mommy. I know they don't hold this against her," he said. "They know that she was sick, and they know that she loved them."

The couple discussed "making the most of the time we have left," he said. "She may be able to help some inmates in prison."

Yates, who recently attended his 20th high school reunion, compared his current stage in life with how it was when he graduated -- "Just, I know more now."

The NASA engineer said his work no longer seems significant to him, and said he may train to work in another field.

"I think if I did anything else, I would want to help people directly," he said.




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