Raising children is difficult and the more you have, the harder it becomes. For that reason, most couples will have just one or two children.
But for a number of different reasons, people will sometimes have a much larger family. One Texas family would find out just how challenging it could be to have a lot of children…
Andrea Kennedy was born the youngest of 5 children to a religious family in Hallsville, Texas. From a very young age, she was always a troubled child. During her teenage years, she suffered from bulimia and depression. At one point, she went so far as to discuss committing suicide with a friend.
Still An Achiever
Despite the mental issues Andrea had to deal with, she was able to accomplish great things in high school. She was captain of the swim team, an officer in the National Honor Society, and even graduated class valedictorian.
Finding The One
Andrea went on to graduate from the University of Texas School of Nursing. She would work as a registered nurse at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Three years after she’d graduated, she met, “Rusty” Yates. The two fell in love and married shortly thereafter.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
Because of their religious beliefs, Andrea and Rusty announced that they “would seek to have as many babies as nature allowed.” To meet their ambitious reproductive goals, they bought a four-bedroom house in Friendswood, Texas. They were just warming up when their first child, Noah, was born almost exactly 9 months after the date of their wedding…
Shortly after Noah’s birth, Rusty accepted a job offer in Florida. He and Andrea sold the Texas home and moved over a thousand miles away to a small trailer in Seminole where they had two more children, John and Paul. After Paul’s birth, they would move for Rusty’s work again, this time purchasing a motor home and going all the way back to Texas, settling in Houston.
Shadows of the Past
While Rusty worked, Andrea was focused entirely on raising their kids. Things were going relatively well for their quickly growing family until the birth of their 4th child, Luke, when Andrea’s depression reared its head again in a major way…
One day in June, Rusty would come home to find Andrea shaking and chewing on her fingers. The severity of her mental distress became even more clear when she tried to overdose on pills the next day. Thankfully, she survived her suicide attempt.
Attempt at Treatment
After her brush with death, Andrea was admitted to hospital and prescribed much needed antidepressants. But just a few days after she came home from the hospital, Andrea made a second attempt at suicide, this time begging Rusty to let her die as she held a knife up to her neck. Rusty was able to talk her down and she was again admitted to the hospital…
After her second suicide attempt, it was clear to Andrea’s doctors that the initial anti-depressants weren’t enough. They prescribed her even more powerful medications, including Haldol, an anti-psychotic. In an effort to make things a bit easier for his wife, Rusty moved the family out of their motor home and into a small house.
These new measures proved useless when but just one month later, Andrea suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide twice more. Her doctors diagnosed her with postpartum psychosis, a mental condition that affects roughly 1 in 1000 women. Her psychiatrist urged the couple not to have any more children, as it would “guarantee future psychotic depression.” Just seven weeks after the diagnosis, Andrea was pregnant again…
Andrea gave birth to her 5th child, Mary, on November 30th, 2000. Against her psychiatrist’s predictions, she seemed to be doing well. While she was still struggling with her depression, she had no major incidents until months later in March when her father died.
Worse Than Ever
Andrea was devastated. She quit taking her medication, began reading the Bible feverishly, and started mutilating herself. The troubled woman stopped caring for her children, stopped feeding Mary, and became so incapacitated that she required immediate hospitalization…
Watch Her Closely
Over the next few months, Andrea would be in a terrible mental state. She was hospitalized twice, once after being in a “near catatonic” state. Her Psychiatrist recommended that he believed that she should be monitored 24 hours a day for the foreseeable future because it was almost guaranteed that she would attempt suicide again.
Rusty arranged for his mother Dora to be home with Andrea when he was out for work during the day. But on June 20th, there was a one hour gap between when Rusty left and Dora arrived. During that long, long hour, Andrea killed each one of her 5 children…
One By One
Andrea filled up the bathtub and brought John into the bathroom, drowned him, then laid him in her bed. She did the same with Paul, then again with Luke. As she was drowning Mary, Noah came into the room and asked her what was wrong with his sister. The scared little boy ran away but didn’t make it far.
In Each Other’s Arms
Andrea left Mary floating in the tub as she quickly caught Noah and drowned him as well. She left Noah floating in the tub as she took Mary and laid her in John’s arms in the bed. She then called the police repeatedly, telling them she needed an officer but would not tell them why. Then she called Rusty and told him he had to come home right away…
Andrea was immediately arrested and openly confessed to drowning her children. Rusty got a family friend, George Parnham to act as his wife’s defense attorney, entering a plea of insanity. Although it was clear that Andrea suffered from severe mental issues, Texas law requires very specifically that a defendant must prove that they were completely unable to discern right from wrong at the time of the crime.
Failing to meet that high standard, the jury rejected the insanity defense and, in March of 2002, found Andrea guilty. The prosecution had sought the death penalty but the jury instead sentenced her to life in prison. She would be eligible for parole in 40 years…
Law and Order
Three years later, a Texas Court of Appeals reversed the convictions for the 5 murders. The reason was that a witness for the prosecution gave false testimony during the trial when he said that Andrea had seen an episode of Law & Order where a woman drowned her children but got off with an insanity defense, an episode that didn’t exist.
A second trial was held in 2006 and again, Andrea entered a plea of insanity. This time, she was found not guilty and was committed to the North Texas State Hospital, a high security mental hospital. Rusty believed his children’s death was a result of inadequate treatment from the hospital, believing they should have kept her longer. Andrea told her jail psychiatrist that she’d killed her children because they “Weren’t righteous. They stumbled because I was evil… they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell.”