Andrea Yates' Life in Prison After Drowning Her 5 Children: She 'Misses Them Every Day'

The 52-year-old has been in a mental institution for more than a decade

It was a horrifying case that defied belief.

Andrea Yates was a 36-year-old mother of five young children: Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months. When her husband went to work on June 20, 2001, Yates methodically drowned all five children in the bathtub of their Houston-area home. Then she called 911.

“I just killed my kids,” she told police when they arrived at her house.

During her high-profile trial, her attorneys argued that Yates suffered from psychotic delusions that were amplified by repeated episodes of postpartum depression. She was sentenced to prison in 2002, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. In her 2006 retrial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital.

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Brett Coomer/AP

Life Inside Kerrville State Hospital

On a sprawling campus an hour outside San Antonio, Andrea Yates is housed at Kerrville State Hospital, a 202-bed facility that looks more like a college campus than a detention center. There are no armed guards, no fences, no bars.

She lives in a private patient room. In addition to watching videos of her children, she walks around the gardens in the grounds of the facility and creates aprons, cards and other artwork in the craft room.

She anonymously sells the aprons and cards she creates, turning proceeds over to support the Yates Children Memorial Fund, a charity benefiting women’s mental health that was founded by her attorney, George Parnham.

Yates is the only patient in the facility who is not allowed to go outside the grounds.

The big question: how does she feel about things today?

“I don’t think people understand how shy and reclusive and how afraid Andrea is, especially since all this publicity descended on her,” another one of her attorneys, Wendell Odom told PEOPLE last year, “She is truly afraid.”


Those close to Yates tell PEOPLE that she understands the severity of her actions. “She misses them every day,” Odom said.

“There’s not a day that goes by where she doesn’t care for, talk about, is happy about her children’s lives before June 20, and grieves for her children,” George Parnham told NBC News last year.

In 2015, Yates’s husband, Rusty Yates, was asked by Oprah Winfrey if he forgives his ex-wife.

“Yes,” he replied, adding: “Forgiveness kind of implies that I have ever really blamed her. In some sense I’ve never really blamed her because I’ve always blamed her illness.”

There is no end date for Yates’ commitment to the state hospital, and there are no open requests to have her released at this time.

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