- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

When family, friends and neighbors learned that a quiet, mild-mannered mother had killed Noah (7), John (5), Paul (3), Luke (2) and Mary (6 months) the reaction, which should be thoroughly familiar by now, was one of pure shock. Some of the most savage monsters in recent memory have stalked our society essentially undetected. Tim McVeigh a nice boy, quiet, intelligent, but never a murderer; Susan Smith an otherwise respectable South Carolina woman who felt she was liberating her two children by drowning them in a lake; Jeffrey Dahmer a carefully disguised cannibal who, to the depressed and lonely, seemed like a friend to turn to; Ted Bundy a sophisticated, well-spoken man who doubled as one of the most notorious serial killers of our time; John Wayne Gacy a gentle soul and an active member in his community who performed as a clown at children's birthday parties when he wasn't stuffing their bodies in his crawl space.

And now there is the catatonic Andrea Yates, who left behind her five drowned children and thousands of unanswered questions. Why are we continually fooled and shocked and betrayed when fears we could never have imagined are realized? Because of just that we never could have imagined. "Andrea is a beautiful person and it is very shocking to all of us," Dora Yates, Andrea's mother-in-law, told us, essentially echoing a chorus so practiced and familiar that it has become pedantic. Everyone is shocked when someone near them snaps, runs amok and makes headlines. This routine, though, where those closest to the killer seem to throw up their hands as if to say, "If only we had known," is simply too little too late.

It is just this complacency that allows the accelerating violence in America to filter through the most intimate and clueless censors. Andrea Yates was not a murderer created in a vacuum. Not to deny her obvious and direct responsibility, but in evaluating her case we must remember circumstances.

It is currently being debated among medical experts whether her affliction was postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis or a more serious and deeply rooted psychological disorder. Regardless of what her surviving family is telling the media, warning signs were there and Mrs. Yates had been crying for help.

After the birth of Luke, her fourth child, Andrea began to spiral into severe depression. She attempted suicide by overdosing on her father's Alzheimer's medication inside his house. And her father was another sign. Throughout her pregnancies Andrea regularly cared for him, and when he died three months after the birth of her fifth child, her depression returned in the most terrible way.

No one can claim utter shock at Andrea's actions. There is no excuse for what she did, and there never will be. But regardless of how the courts deal with her, those closest to her will always know that there was something they could have done.

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