By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"If I'd known she was psychotic, we'd never have even considered having more kids," her husband insists. "But all the doctors ever told us was that there was a 50 percent chance that she might become depressed again after having another baby, that she might even require some treatment. But by then we knew that the medicine--a drug called Haldol--had worked." A high-potency neuroleptic/tranquilizer, Haldol is often prescribed for those suffering a variety of mental problems, from acute depression to schizophrenia, mood swings and aggressive behavior to dementia and psychotic thinking.
"Postpartum depression," he says, "we understood, was the worst-case scenario, and we thought we'd learned how to treat it if it occurred again. Andrea and I discussed it at length and felt everything would be OK if she got pregnant again. We loved kids."
It was four months after Mary's birth that her mother sank into a mental state from which she still has not recovered. Despite Rusty's insistence to doctors that she be given the same medication that had previously cured her, another anti-depressant was prescribed. "If she'd been given what I asked them to give her," he says, "I don't think the tragedy would have happened."
If she had been diagnosed as psychotic, he would have known she was a danger to their children and he'd have handled the problems of her illness differently, would have better understood the danger. "That day," he says, "I didn't sense that leaving her alone with the kids until my mother arrived was a problem. In retrospect, was it wrong for me to have left that morning? Probably so. But was it reasonable at the time to think it was OK to go on to work? She seemed functional, and I saw no reason that day to think she might harm the children.
"Should I blame myself for what happened to my children?" He pauses before answering his own question, then says, "No."
Is, then, Rusty Yates a still-grieving father-husband locked in a monumental defense of denial or a man unfairly demonized by an unsympathetic society determined to find sinister motives in every corner of his life? That people must even ask such questions, he says, is hurtful. "They don't know me. They don't know how we lived our life," he argues. "All I ever wanted from life was a beautiful family. And in one day it was all lost, and people began to point accusing fingers." Finally weary of what he refers to as the press' misrepresentations and half-truths, he says he has decided to be more defensive.
"I realize what a strong force the media can be," he says, "and for that reason I've talked to reporters. Early on, I did so in hopes that they could provide a positive force in Andrea's defense, that they could help explain that it was her illness that caused the tragedy. I hoped by talking with them I could help them see the difference between Andrea, the mother with a good heart, and the Andrea with a sick mind." Rarely, he says, did it work. One reporter, he recalls, pored through his wife's medical records and ignored written proof that he and Andrea had carefully followed doctor's orders. "We'd done everything right," Yates insists, "yet the reporter picked out a phrase here and there to make the case we were irresponsible parents. I know for a fact that friends and neighbors were interviewed and said positive things about our lifestyle, but none of that ever appeared in print."
When a recent Newsweek article quoted him as saying, "I've given all I want to give," Yates was certain that most readers would assume he was addressing his support of his imprisoned wife and angrily phoned the reporter. "I had made that comment," he says, "about payment for court documents to be used in her appeal, not about any personal feelings I have for Andrea."
Those feelings, he admits, remain tangled and unresolved.