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Jewish World Review March 25, 2002/ 12 Nisan, 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Finally, the monster under the bed identified | The nightmares started late last summer. There's this man, emotionless and unmoving, with dead eyes. He speaks in a monotone and never flinches no matter what he sees or hears. Show him pain, suffering, anger, devastation, death -- nothing moves him. He's in total, absolute, perfect control.

Lucky for me, it's only a dream. I get to wake up to my family, dogs, cat, coffee and newspapers and heave a sigh of relief. He's a bad dream for me, but for Andrea Yates, he was the real thing.

Has there ever been a scarier guy than Russell Yates? Watching him a few nights ago on Larry King Live, all I could think was Night of the Living Dead. He looks like a human; he talks and walks like a human. But he's missing something. Ah, yes, the heart, a human soul.

What an anomaly that a professed Christian man who believes in God, the hereafter and the life everlasting should lack the very thing that qualifies one for entry into the Kingdom. Hate to break it to you, Russell, but it's the soul that goes to heaven, and yours has gone missing.

OK, maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, we've been told by the Talking Shrinks that we shouldn't judge people who've suffered tragedy, that we all grieve differently. Which is true, of course. If I had a mentally ill husband who had drowned our children, I'd be buried next to my kids. And so, by the way, would he. But that's just me -- predictably emotional when someone kills my children.

Do I need Russell Yates to break down and cry?


Do I need him to curl up in the fetal ball?


Do I need him to stop smiling when he talks of his dead children as though he's on a cruise with their mother while the children are eating homemade peach ice cream with Gramps and Nanny?

Yeah, I really do.

To say that Russell Yates is "not real emotional," as he puts it, is like saying that Andrea Yates is a tad moody. His public dispassion in the face of such breathtaking horror is the definition of creepy. And we wonder what pushed Andrea over the edge?

Indeed, a perplexed public, and now prosecutors, wonder whether he might be criminally culpable in the deaths of his children. Prosecutors are considering charging Russell Yates with negligent homicide or child endangerment. In an unscientific, on-line survey sponsored by crime observer and author Bill Bickel, 77 percent of respondents agreed that Russell Yates should be held partially responsible for the five deaths.

Legal experts will have to figure out whether they have a prosecutable case, but common sense puts Russell Yates squarely in the culpable range. His wife tried to commit suicide twice after the birth of their fourth child (Hint to Russell: She may be unstable/dangerous); she had been diagnosed as "psychotic" (Hint: She may be psychotic); a psychiatrist told the Yateses unequivocally that another child would "guarantee future psychotic depression." (Hint: Russell? Nurse, take his pulse.)

Even so, Russell contends that no one correctly diagnosed his sick wife's illness or fully comprehended the severity of her disease. He's considering suing the doctors.

Even if he were right, and the record reflects otherwise, Russell might have extrapolated from his wife's behavior that his children were in danger. He told Larry King, for instance, that when Andrea called after the drownings to tell him to come home, she was talking more than she had in weeks.

Huh? The wife doesn't talk. She has a history of suicide attempts. In the weeks before she killed her children, according to Russell's own accounting, she would hold the baby and stare straight ahead and not talk. Is this man really alive? I need proof.

As to culpability, Russell Yates' leaving his children with a demented, psychotic, suicidal woman is no different than leaving them alone with a loaded gun. They were defenseless; she was a delusional maniac; and he, apparently, was so self-absorbed that he failed to notice.

We may not have a name on the books for the particular crime of being Russell Yates, but he's guilty.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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