Texas Mom 'Sacrificed'
Her Children - Psychiatrist

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A depressed and psychotic Andrea Yates drowned her five children because she believed they must be "sacrificed" to save them from Satan's torment, a psychiatrist who treated the troubled Texas mother testified on Friday.
The 37-year-old Yates, Harris County Jail psychiatrist Melissa Ferguson said, was "one of the sickest patients I've ever seen."
The testimony opened the defense of Yates after prosecutors, who believe she was sane enough to be held responsible for the crime, rested their case on Friday.
Yates is charged with two counts of capital murder -- one for the deaths of sons Noah, 7, and John, 5, and another for killing her 6-month-old daughter, Mary. Prosecutors did not seek indictments for two of Yates' other children, but could do so if not satisfied with the verdict in the current trial.
She has admitted drowning her young children in the bathtub of their Houston home on June 20, 2001, but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors focused on the barbarity of the crime and argued that Yates was well enough to know right from wrong, the only distinction required under Texas law to be judged sane.
But Ferguson described a Yates so out of touch with reality that the former high school valedictorian could not tell her the year or month or spell the word "world" when she was first jailed.
Yates, who spoke only when spoken to and was badly agitated, spun disjointed tales about Satan planting thoughts in her head, tormenting her children and talking to her through television cartoons and the movies "The Matrix" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," Ferguson testified.
At least twice she claimed she was Satan, said Satan must be destroyed and told Ferguson she knew the person who could do it.
"Governor Bush will destroy Satan," she told Ferguson, apparently referring to President Bush, former governor of Texas. "The state will impose the death penalty on Satan."
Texas leads the nation in executions, while Harris County leads Texas in sending people to death row.
Yates, who suffered postpartum depression after the birth of fourth and fifth children and, according to her attorneys was badly treated for the disease, said Satan "tormented" her children and that they had "stumbled" off the path of righteousness because she was a bad mother, Ferguson said.
"She made the statement that the children had to be sacrificed because they could not be saved any other way," Ferguson said. "(She believed) the only way to relieve the torment was to kill them."
In a taped confession played for jurors on Thursday, Yates said she drowned the children one-by-one in the bathtub, holding them beneath the water while they struggled for their lives.
She then called husband Rusty Yates at work and the police, which prosecutors say showed she knew had done something wrong.
Ferguson said Yates, whom she described as stooped and unkempt right after the murders, picked at her lip until it bled and pulled at her hair until she had bald spots. She cried loudly when mental experts first met with her, but claimed she was not mentally ill.
Ferguson said she told her she was severely depressed and psychotic, but Yates simply replied: "I'm not depressed; I never cried."
Yates is now on a potent drug cocktail that includes anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications, Ferguson said. She has improved, the doctor said, but is not cured.
Ferguson's testimony differed sharply from that of police who earlier told the court that Yates was quiet, but rational after the murders.
Yates has shown little emotion during the trial, except on Thursday when she wept as photographs and videos of the dead children were shown in court.
Four of the pajama-clad children -- John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, six months -- were carefully laid out on a bed in the master bedroom, their heads on pillows and a sheet covering them as if they were asleep.
The video showed Noah, 7, body floating face down in the murky water of the tub.
Assistant Harris County medical examiner Harminder Narula told on Friday of finding bruises on Noah's head during his autopsy.
"Could they have been consistent with someone holding Noah Yates' head with pressure?" asked prosecutor Joe Owmby.
"Yes, sir," Narula responded.
Earlier, two other medical examiners said they found similar bruises and other signs of struggle on the children. Yates told police they fought for their lives while she held them under the water and that each took at least "a couple of minutes" to kill.

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