Tracks of His Tears

His wife murdered their five children, but Rusty Yates was the one labeled a villain. He says don't believe everything you read.


Every other Saturday, as he makes the three-hour drive to visit his wife, Rusty Yates is never certain who he will see. "She's not stable yet," he admits. "They [prison physicians] are still in the process of adjusting her medication." Each visit, he says, is bittersweet.

As his two-hour stay begins, he is allowed to briefly hug and kiss his wife. They then sit and talk, sometimes of their lost children, sometimes of the slow-moving process of preparing her appeal, at other times of nothing more personal than her occasional work in the prison laundry.

"She's sad," Rusty says, "and I'm sad for her."

 
Mark Graham
 
Rusty Yates now spends much of his time running a Web site, www.yateskids.org, devoted to the memory of his children. Up to one-fifth of the e-mails he receives there blame him in some way for his children's deaths.
Mark Graham
Rusty Yates now spends much of his time running a Web site, www.yateskids.org, devoted to the memory of his children. Up to one-fifth of the e-mails he receives there blame him in some way for his children's deaths.

There have been times, he says, when Andrea was not very coherent and suffered from blurred vision brought on by high doses of medication. Occasionally, he says, the Andrea who has greeted him in the visiting room is much like the woman he once knew. At such times she's confided things of which he was never aware.

"Andrea was always one of those people who seemed happy to just go with the flow of things. I now know that wasn't always what she wanted to do, what would have really made her happy. Looking back, I should have recognized that and been more sensitive to it," he says.

Often, their sensitivities seem to have reversed. "There have been visits when I've cried--like one day when we were talking about Luke--but she didn't. She just couldn't. The medication she was on made it impossible for her to cry."

Recently, the receipt of a rambling 20-page letter from his wife concerned Rusty so much that he phoned the prison physician to make certain she was taking her medication.

It is on the long, lonely drives home that he often finds himself pondering his uncertain future. What if Andrea should one day win her appeal and be released from the prison where she is now sentenced to stay until she is at least 77 years old? What if she was, instead, removed to a mental hospital and one day judged well enough to return home?

"We've talked a little about that," he admits, but with no resolution. He ponders the matter for several silent seconds, then it is the "logical" Rusty Yates who continues: "It's impossible to conceive of a more horrible thing than what Andrea did. She's hurt me more than I thought it possible for anyone to," he says, "and that's a tough thing to deal with. It's like the old adage of putting your finger to the flame. If you do, you aren't likely ever to again. It's that instinct that causes me to feel that I never want to go through what's happened again."

It's apparently as far as he wants to go with the subject. But in a whisper, he adds, "When you're dealing with your heart, there is rarely an easy answer."

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