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Then she called her husband, Russell (Rusty) Yates, an $80,000-a-year computer expert for the Space Shuttle Vehicle Engineering Office of NASA. "You'd better come home," he recalls her telling him. "Is anyone hurt?" he asked, alarmed by her tone of voice. "Yes," she said. "The children. All of them."

Until her breakdown, Andrea had a seemingly spotless record as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. The youngest of five children and a high school valedictorian, Andrea Kennedy graduated from the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston with a BSN degree. For eight years, she worked as a nurse at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was studious and shy, and didn't date seriously until she was 23. One of her first experiences of depression followed a failed relationship when she was 24.

She met Rusty when they were neighbors in an apartment complex. Raised near Nashville, he played football and was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at DuPont Senior High School. His classmates voted him Mr. DuPont—an ideal representative of their school. At Auburn University his gridiron career, like that of many high school athletes, ended. In and outside the courtroom, he is rarely without the thick-bound volume of his wife's medical records. He wears his wedding band.

After their first child, Noah, was born in 1994, Andrea became a stay-at-home mother and quickly had two more sons. She did not use birth control; she and Rusty agreed to accept as many children as God sent their way. When his job required a six-month stint in Florida, the family put most of their belongings in storage and accompanied him, living in a trailer home. Back in Houston, Rusty says, they'd forgotten why they ever needed half the things they'd stored. They moved into a customized Greyhound bus, described by Rusty as a 350-square-foot motor home.

With the birth of her fourth child, Luke, Andrea was—like many new mothers—breast-feeding every three hours and sleeping only a few hours a night. On June 16, 1999, she called Rusty at work because she was extremely anxious. When he arrived home, Andrea was shaking and had difficulty speaking. "I need help," she said.

The next day Rusty took his wife and children to the home of Andrea's elderly parents, where he thought "she feels comfortable" and would have support, he later told a social worker. But that afternoon, while the family napped, Andrea took 40 trazodone tablets—a medication with a strong sedative quality—that had been prescribed for her father. That overdose could have killed her, but her mother found her in time to rush her to Houston's Ben Taub General Hospital's emergency room.

Yates was transferred to the psychiatric unit of Methodist Hospital, where James Flack, M.D., diagnosed her with "major depressive disorder, single episode, severe." This marked the beginning of a spiral into full-blown psychosis that was never adequately treated.

A Cry in the Dark continues...

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