Saturday, July 4, 2009

Are You There Alone?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates by Suzanne O'Malley

On a June morning in a Houston suburb, a 911 dispatcher questioned the caller on the other end of the line: ARE YOU HAVING A DISTURBANCE? ARE YOU ILL? ARE YOU AT 942 BEACHCOMBER? ARE YOU THERE ALONE? It took a jury less than four hours to find Houston housewife Andrea Yates guilty of the drowning deaths of three of her five children,and a mere half hour to sentence the troubled woman with a stunning history of severe mental problems to life in prison. But beyond the media coverage of her heinous crimes, there is a story that only investigative reporter Suzanne O'Malley has fully illuminated. THIS IS THE BOOK THAT INCLUDES THE REVELATION THAT LED TO THE OVERTURNING OF ANDREA YATES'S CONVICTION. The updated edition of Are You There Alone? features a new chapter on the appeal of the Yates case, as well as personal updates on both Andrea and Rusty Yates. Having drawn upon hundreds of interviews,with expert witnesses, close friends, family advisers, and Andrea and Rusty themselves,O'Malley has produced a riveting true-crime account that shatters our notions about criminal law, mental illness, death-penalty politics, and religious fanaticism in America today.

When this story first made the news, I was shocked and horrified.The mother had murdered ALL five of her children.The reason she gave was that if they lived any longer they would be claimed by satan.So she essentially saved them.Then I started reading this book.I hate it when I form hard and fast opinions without having the facts from as many angles as possible and this book is definitely sympathetic to Andrea Yates and the issue of post natal depression.As a mother I know all about the crazy emotions we go through after childbirth.Goodness,even the pregnancy is chaotic for me.Crying at every traffic light where a poor person is begging for money.Actually I do that for a week a month as well.Okay,too much information but you all know what I mean.

Warning:some of the content below might be disturbing!

The book starts with this information:

April 17,1993-Russell and Andrea Yates are married
February 26,1994-first child born
December 15,1995-second child born
November 1996-miscarriage
September 13,1997-third child born
February 15,1999-fourth child born
June 17,1999-Andrea takes overdose of Trazodone
June 17-24,1999-Andrea Yates hospitalised
July 20,1999-Andrea attempts suicide with a knife
July 21-August 8,1999-Andrea Yates hospitalised
August 9-20,1999-Andrea continues hospital care as a day patient
October 1999-Haldol/Decanoate injections discontinued(this is due partly to cession of medical cover.This results in patient having to administer meds orally which means responsibility is passed to patient who is diagnosed schizophrenic by the way and caring for small children-in brackets is my own comments)
January 2000-Andrea's last visit with psychiatrist
March 2000-Andrea pregnant with fifth child.(Has to stop meds obviously-please note that by this time the Yates couple had been advised prior to not have any more children as pregnancy will worsen her symptoms of mental illness)
November 30,2000-fifth child born
March 13,2001-Andrea's father dies
March 31-April 12,2001-Andrea hospitalised(during this time Andrea's new psychiatrist requests a court ordered commitment)
April 13,2001-Andrea begins program as day patient(again medical coverhas run out for hospitalised care)
April 19,2001-mother in law comes to help Andrea with the kids
May 3,2001-Andrea fills bathtub with water but does nothing(she later states it is because she saw the water people and thought they had come to shut off the water for non payment and was just making sure there was enough water to carry them through until the water would be re instated)
June 20,2001-Andrea Yates drowns her children(right after husband leaves for work and before the mother in law gets there to help out for the day.About an hour window period)

By this time which is 3 pages into the book I am sympathetic.I remember how tired I was one month into my little one's birth and that was just from waking up once at night and my other child was 11 years old.Andrea Yates had 5 children under 7 years of age.And get this,she also did home schooling.And breast feeding! and keeping the middle children busy and happy!and cleaning the house and ironing!And with 4 children they had lived in a bus after taking the advice of some religious guru.I am going to assume that Andrea was too overwhelmed to make any proper decisions but does NO ONE in this family and extended family realise this is too much for one person!

The one thing with this story which made me the most sad was the fact that some news networks had reported that the oldest child,Noah, had actually tried to run away and was dragged back to be drowned.Andrea denies that this happened and I will give her the benefit of the doubt.But she then relates that between dunking Noah,he was blurting out that he was sorry.Obviously the little man thought he was being punished.This is even worse for me than the running away.This absolutely breaks my heart!Add to that the fact that she had the 6 month old sitting on the bathroom floor as she drowned each child and then placed each one on the bed and went for the next one.The baby was the 4th child to be drowned.She left this baby's body floating in the bath and that's how Noah,the eldest was called into the bathroom.He actually saw his little sister floating there and then suffered the same fate.

So my end conclusion is that I do accept that Andrea Yates had a mental breakdown but that doesn't deter from the fact that 5 children were murdered.Regardless of the fact that the medical practitioners were partly to blame for an incorrect diagnosis on Andrea,the fact that her husband was for the most part oblivious to this unfolding drama,that the extended family decided to choose conscious blindness,that the medical care provider decided that profits took a higher priority over the lives of human beings,Andrea Yates drowned and murdered her 5 children on June 20,2001.

Allowing a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity will open the floodgates for similar pleas where the mothers have just realised that their children are inconvenient and in the way,similar pleas where mothers are instructed by voices that God is requesting that they do this and the list goes on and on.

This book details a lot more information some of which is updated regarding Andrea Yate's original conviction being overturned and the results thereof.One more bit of information for those who did not know this,Russell Yate's wish was for Andrea to be found not guilty so she could get medical help and then be released.They would then have more children and resume their lives as normally as possible.Seriously?Should this man not be in jail as well,if for nothing else than for gross and lawless stupidity.

Little Noah (the first born)was born exactly 23 days after my daughter.He would be the impossible teenager my daughter is today.He would be going out to movies and probably have inspired a few crushes by now.The last born,Mary would be turning 9 in November,no doubt developing her own taste in clothes and being silly like only little girls can be.

If you would like to read this book,it offers valuable information on the treatment of mental diseases,tips on what to look out for,possibly ways to avoid disaster like this family encountered.It wil re iterate for most people how any business (despite a social name like "medical care provider")is actually a business and they are there to make money first and foremost and let's not forget it.

More Book Details:

Are You There Alone?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates
Country: United States of America
Format: Mass market paperback
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
ISBN: 9780743466295
Publication date: May 2005
Edition: Updated
Pages: 432
Illustrations: Illustrated


  1. I couldn't find your e-mail address to answer your question about EVERY LAST CUCKOO! But I just wanted to let you know that I think it would be terrific on the Kindle -- I didn't turn back once to check on anything!

  2. Thanks, another great review form you.
    It's not everyday we get to meet such passionate bloggers like you.

  3. Julie I subscribed to your comments so I would get your answer.Thank you so much though for going to all this trouble to let me know.I am going to get this book.After the one above I think I need a slight break from true crime

    Lazy King,thank you and I hope you enjoyed my answers on your blog.I enjoyed doing that little exercise

  4. I could never read this book. The story is too heart breaking. I could cry right now just thinking about her unspeakable crimes. I think Andrea Yates is pure evil, maybe even Satan himself.

  5. Yvette, that was a compelling review of what is a harrowing story. The mind boggles at the behaviour of the health services. While that kind of brutality is hard to imagine, as a parent it is easy to understand just how stressful mothering a young family is. Still enjoying your insightful posts but I sometimes have trouble commenting, one of the eccecentricities of my laptop, it doesn't just happen on your site but a couple of others also.

  6. Oh John I know exactly what you mean.I am a bit disturbed about the fact that her mental disease has been blamed for these crimes.Whatever combination resulted in this terrible crime,I know of some people who are schizophrenic/bi polar disorder and none of them are criminals.

    Bookpusher,that's a problem us people with IE browsers are having as well.Do you also have the IE one?It is so frustrating.Glad it allowed you this time (lol)

  7. Whoa! Great review. Definitely will have to read this one.

  8. Hey LuAnn,thanks for the compliment.I really thought that a book with sympathy for Andrea would maybe sway me regarding my thoughts on her actions but no,I still feel the same.She is guilty,insane or not.!!!I hear that some groups are trying to include a plea of "guilty by reason of insanity" and I think that is a good idea.Basically the person charged would get medical help and once "cured" would then go into the prison system to serve the rest of the sentence.No "get out of jail free" card

  9. This is a great review. I read the book and yes, it was very disturbing.

  10. Hey J Kaye
    Thank you.I found this book so disturbing that I have given myself a break from true crime for a while.I am looking for a "feel good" book for a change!

  11. This is a disturbing situation. Those poor children. I cried when it came out in the news. You have given another thought provoking post.

    Yes, business is business. So sad for people who really need help.

    I have a suggestion for a feel good book: Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson ISBN-10: 031601477X
    ISBN-13: 978-0316014779

  12. Sharon,I went over and it was available on Kindle so I got it.I will let you know how the reading went.Thank you and thank you some more...

  13. We both know where I stand with this book. :) Just wanted to comment, good review.

    I honestly couldn't read this book, just reading what you wrote almost brought me to tears.

  14. Hey TrishaLynn
    This book was so disturbing that I had to take a break from true crime.I am only now slowly easing myself back into reading some more tc.It was absolutely terrible!

  15. Yvette...

    There are no words to say how disturbing this book is...

    All I could do is hug my little ones...

    How sad...


  16. Hey EH
    I feel exactly the same.I look at my little ones sleeping and wonder how could a mother do that to sweet trusting little people!!


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