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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With David Smith, Rusty Yates
Aired March 29, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, when mothers murder their children, how do the fathers cope? Susan Smith shocked the nation when she drowned her two boys in a lake. Her ex-husband, David Smith, speaks out about the grief he's struggled with for nearly a decade. And two years ago this month, Andrea Yates was convicted of drowning her children in the family bathtub. Her husband, Russell Yates, talks about that unspeakable crime and why he's standing by her. A rare joint appearance by two men who've had to deal with a father's worst nightmare exclusive next on LARRY KING LIVE.
In this very difficult situation, we appreciate both men appearing here together. We'll be taking your calls in a while, as well. David Smith is the ex-husband of convicted child killer Susan Smith. Susan drowned her two sons, Michael and Alex, by rolling her car into a South Carolina lake on October 24, 1994. She was convicted of murdering them and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. She's eligible for parole November of 2023. And David, by the way, manages a Wal-Mart store in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Russell "Rusty" Yates is the husband of convicted child killer Andrea Yates, father of five children Andrea Yates drowned in the family bathtub on June 20, 2001. He was interviewed for the just published book, "Are You There Alone: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates," by Suzanne O'Malley (ph). Rusty is a computer engineer with NASA in Houston. Andrea was convicted of the drowning murders of three of the five children, sentenced to life in prison, is eligible for parole March of 2042.
David, you have -- you since have had a new little boy?
DAVID SMITH, EX-WIFE, SUSAN, KILLED THEIR 2 CHILDREN: Yes.
SMITH: Nicholas, yes.
KING: How's he doing? And ho ware you -- how have you dealt with having another child?
SMITH: Well, it's been a long road getting there, but -- I don't know. Nicholas is really special, being the first boy. You know, nothing to take away from Savannah, my daughter, but it was really unique having another boy again.
KING: Do you worry more about him? SMITH: No, I don't worry about him, but I tend to just -- there's a special bond between -- you know, that I have for him that's just phenomenal.
KING: The two boys you lost were how old?
SMITH: Michael was 3 and Alex was 14 months.
KING: Now, David, you have not visited your wife, right?
SMITH: No, I have not.
KING: Not supportive of her?
KING: Think she got what she deserved.
SMITH: No, I don't.
KING: In fact, you thought she should have been...
SMITH: Death penalty, yes.
KING: Rusty, you are supportive of your wife. She killed your five children.
RUSTY YATES, WIFE, ANDREA, KILLED THEIR 5 CHILDREN: Yes.
YATES: Not supportive of what she did, obviously. But you know, I don't think -- in fact, I know that she would never have done what she did had she not been mentally ill. So you know, I can't blame her for getting ill.
KING: So you visit her, right?
YATES: I visit her every two weeks, yes.
KING: When was the last time you saw her?
YATES: Two days, Saturday, yes.
KING: How's she doing?
YATES: Saturday, she was doing pretty good, you know, but over the course of the past, you know, two-and-a-half years, she really has been not -- not any -- there hasn't been any really extended period of time where she's been stable. She's on five or six medications right now, and you know, they're still adjusting her medications, so...
KING: What is her prison situation?
YATES: She's in a psychiatric prison.
KING: A psychiatric prison. So everyone in there has some sort of mental condition that they're dealing with, right?
KING: Didn't you ever think, David, that something had to be wrong with Susan mentally to do what she did?
SMITH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, something was surely wrong with her. There's no doubt. But to me, there still was no reason or excuse or anything to murder your children. I mean, they -- you know, Michael and Alex did nothing wrong. Why did they have to give up the ultimate gift that we have, which is life?
KING: Was it especially worse that she lied and said the car was carjacked and everything...
SMITH: Absolutely, because...
KING: ... and the pictures of the two of you on television?
SMITH: Absolutely, because to me, she was, you know, trying to get away with it. You know, she was trying to cover it up, and she did that for nine days, trying to get away it.
KING: So that added to your not only hurt but anger?
SMITH: Right. Of course.
KING: So you think, had she come forward right away, and not knowing why she did such a thing and had been more disturbed, you might have been more compassionate?
SMITH: More sympathetic, yes.
KING: Andrea did what, David -- Russ -- Rusty? How did you find out your kids were killed?
YATES: Oh, boy. When I got to the house that day. I mean, she...
KING: Had she called you?
YATES: She called me at work, and I rushed home. And she didn't say that -- you know, what had happened. She just said...
KING: What did she say?
YATES: She said, You need to come home. And I said, Why? And she said, You need to come home. And so I rushed home, and when I got there, there was actually already a media truck there. They were starting to rope off the road. The cops were there, and they told me right when I walked in the gate, you know, that -- what had happened, so...
KING: How did you -- were you -- first, you knew she was sick, right? You knew she was having problems. You'd been seeing doctors, right?
YATES: Right. We'd -- she'd been in treatment for about three months at that time.
KING: Had she ever threatened the children?
KING: Threatened to harm the children?
YATES: Absolutely not. And that's something that -- that's why -- you know, we knew she was sick, but we had absolutely no idea she was even possibly dangerous to the children, no indication whatsoever.
KING: So this action was a total shock to you.
YATES: Absolutely a complete shock. All of our focus was on Andrea and trying to get her well, help her through this, you know, sickness. And then all of a sudden, our kids are gone, you know, and it was just incomprehensible. There's no way we could ever imagine that. We couldn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
KING: Have you come to a reasonable conclusion to yourself, David, as to why your wife did this?
SMITH: No. Not a reasonable one, no.
KING: What was the accepted reason? What did she say?
SMITH: Well, to me, it was greed.
KING: She wanted what?
SMITH: She wanted to be with a rich young gentleman that she was dating at the time.
KING: Were you separated at the time?
KING: I see. So she could date.
KING: And this guy didn't want children around?
SMITH: Right. That's what he told her in the letter, that he didn't want a ready-made family. So that's -- to me -- to be with him, she had to get rid of the children, but you just can't give them up. That wouldn't look good.
KING: How did you learn your children had died before you knew it was Susan?
SMITH: Well, I was at work, and I got a call from Sheriff Hardwell (ph) that -- well, actually, Susan was on the phone first, and I couldn't understand what she was saying, she was babbling so much. And Sheriff Hardwell got on the phone and told me where she was at and what had happened, that I needed to get there right away. And I...
KING: But you had no suspicion of her, right?
SMITH: Oh, no. I believed her the whole time, the whole nine days, 100 percent.
KING: What changed it? How did you learn it was her? How did it -- take us back.
SMITH: Well, that nine days -- she had left that morning for another interview, and then we started hearing reports on TV about an alleged confession. But we had heard nothing official from any -- you know, anybody credible yet. And then they finally announced that -- Sheriff Wells (ph) came on TV and announced that Susan had been arrested and charged with the death of Michael and Alex.
KING: Do you know why she finally confessed?
SMITH: No, I -- I just -- I think they finally just wore her down. She -- I think she finally gave up that she couldn't gate way with it.
KING: How was your wife when you arrived on the scene, Rusty?
YATES: I didn't get to see her. You know, I...
KING: They had taken her away?
YATES: No, she was in the living room and she was on the couch and just sort of staring straight ahead. And the only bit I got to see her was when I ran around the back of the house and peeked through our French doors and into the living room, where she sitting. That's all I saw of her that day.
KING: Did you see any of the bodies?
YATES: No. I never want to. And you know, I've never seen any crime scene photos. I did see autopsy photos and we did have a visitation for the children, which was really meaningful to me. And I didn't realize how meaningful that would be, but it really was.
KING: Did you see your children?
SMITH: No. From my understanding, mine were very -- you know, they were in the water for nine days, so they were very decomposed, and they suggested that I didn't see them, and so I took that. And I never have even read the autopsy report or anything.
KING: Never saw the autopsy? SMITH: No.
KING: Do you understand his feelings?
YATES: I do, yes. And I understand -- I mean the circumstances are definitely different, so...
KING: Because she lied and...
YATES: Right. I mean, I kind of tend to believe we can learn something from every tragedy. There are reasons why people do things. We don't always understand them. But certainly, I mean, she's caused him tremendous pain, and I think all of the anger he feels is certainly understandable, so...
KING: Do you understand Rusty.
SMITH: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, what his -- you know, his wife's circumstances were different. And every -- every case requires different feelings and different emotions and...
KING: We'll be right back with David Smith and Rusty Yates on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be including your phone calls. We'll ask Rusty about that book and how it came about. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN SMITH: I love 'em. I just can't express enough. I have been to the Lord in prayers every day with my family and by myself, with my husband. It just seems so unfair that somebody could take such two beautiful children. And I don't understand. I have put all my trust and faith in the Lord, that he's taking care of them and that he will bring them home to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JULY, 2001)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you trying to accomplish then, when you did take your children's lives?
ANDREA YATES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) be in their innocent years and God would take them up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would be in their innocent years and God would take them up? Is that what you said?
ANDREA YATES: Be with him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God would take them up to be in heaven? Is that what you mean?
ANDREA YATES: Uh-huh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And if you had not taken their lives, what did you think would happen to them?
ANDREA YATES: I guess they would have continued stumbling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where would they end up?
ANDREA YATES: Hell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hell?
ANDREA YATES: Uh-huh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Rusty, what led to the book, "The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates"?
YATES: What led to the book? Well, that's a book by Suzanne O'Malley, and she spent, you know, two years researching the case and interviewed a lot of people. I learned a few things when I read the book. In fact, I was kind of surprised by that, but...
KING: You cooperated with her, though, right?
YATES: I let her interview me, sure.
KING: And was it her conclusion that there's something mentally wrong with Andrea?
YATES: Oh, I think it's pretty clear by the evidence in the book. I mean, she doesn't have -- she doesn't really express a lot of opinions in the book, she just presents the facts. And I think it's very clear that Andrea was psychotic at that time and -- yes.
KING: Does she realize what she did?
YATES: Andrea? Yes. I mean, she remembers, you know?
KING: Does she have remorse?
YATES: Absolutely. I mean, I visited her Saturday, and she cried and -- we both did. I was, like, I wish we could go back to where we were, you know? That's what she said to me. And we both feel the same way, you know, and the sad thing is, we can't. I mean, there's no going back and...
KING: Are you very religious?
YATES: I am.
KING: Yes. Do you believe in God? You do believe...
YATES: Absolutely, yes.
KING: And does she believe in God?
YATES: Yes. KING: So what -- what -- what -- was she hearing a voice?
YATES: It's -- I think, at the time, you know, when somebody's psychotic, what happens is, is that their -- you know, their ordinary, manageable concerns turn into, you know, delusional nightmares. So she was ordinarily concerned about being a good mother. She was ordinarily concerned about being a good Christian. She was concerned about the development of our children.
And then when she became sick, all those ordinary concerns were twisted into, like, a delusional reality for her. She -- her entire reality changed, and she believed that the children were damaged, that she was a bad mother -- not that she was concerned about being a bad mother, but she was a bad mother, and not, you know, just concerned about her standing before God, but Satan was in her. And that's how twisted her -- her -- it wasn't just thoughts, it was her reality changed to that extent. So that's what psychosis will do to a person.
KING: Was a book ever written, David, about the Susan Smith case?
SMITH: There's a couple of them, yes.
KING: Yes? Do you ever hear about her in prison, how she is, what she's doing?
SMITH: Only when she causes some problem or something like that, they'll let me know.
SMITH: Well, like when she was having the affairs with the prison guards, and then this...
KING: Female prison guards?
SMITH: No, male.
KING: Oh, male.
SMITH: Male. And just recently, she put a request in to go to an outside dentistry, so they called me and got my opinion on that.
KING: What did you say?
SMITH: I told them no, that I don't want her going outside the prison walls. So they said OK.
KING: You have not -- you won't let up on this, huh?
SMITH: No. No. She just -- she doesn't know what she's done to me. She doesn't know the pain, the depression that she's put me through.
KING: How did you handle the media coverage, Rusty? Because they were critical of you sometimes for being too supportive of her. YATES: Well, at first, there wasn't much I could do because of the gag order. So basically, you know, there was a lot reported that wasn't true during the course -- you know, up and through the trial. Afterwards, you know, I tried to appear and say a few things. But it -- you know, really, people had kind of made up their minds early on about, you know, what our family was like, and the circumstances of...
KING: But you were supportive from the start, right?
YATES: I've always been supportive. Absolutely. From the very beginning, I've been supportive of her and...
KING: Because you knew something was really wrong with her.
YATES: At first -- you know, the first hour or two, I did not. I didn't know why. All I could do is say, How could you do this? I don't understand. How could you do this? I don't understand. And after a while, I figured it out, what had happened.
KING: But how about the pain?
YATES: The pain is tremendous. It is.
KING: Of five kids!
YATES: It's absolutely devastating and -- but you know, in our society, we think, well, someone does wrong, and we automatically they think need to be punished. And it's, like, a natural consequence of doing wrong. And I don't believe that. I think what she did is horrible and, you know, hurt me, hurt our children, hurt all of our families, but it doesn't mean that she needs to be punished. You know, we have to look and say, What's the most constructive thing we can do, as society, in a circumstance like this? And in her case, the most constructive thing to do is send her to a mental institution until she's well.
KING: Are you dating?
YATES: No. I mean, Andrea and I, you know, we've talked a lot about, you know, where to go from here, you know, with this. In fact, Saturday, we did, but it's...
KING: Where can you go?
YATES: Well, I mean...
KING: She's not going to get out.
YATES: That's the reality of it, it's true. I mean, she's sentenced to 40 years in prison. Well, it's life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years. She may win her appeal and go to a mental institution. But even then, there's a punitive element to the -- to that time. And even if that were to come about and she were ever free, you know, then there's a trust issue. You know, the fact -- like what David was saying. I mean, you know, when someone causes you pain, you know, when you're in a position of trust with someone and they cause you pain, it isn't really a logical thing, it's more of an instinctive thing that...
KING: There's never 100 percent trust.
YATES: I can't put myself in that trusting position with her again.
KING: I thought you said she's in a psychiatric prison.
YATES: She's in a psychiatric prison, but not a hospital. She's not in a mental hospital. It's a prison, so...
KING: So the sentence was guilty, right?
KING: Life in prison.
KING: Did anyone fight for the death penalty? Was that a death penalty case?
KING: But the jury voted...
SMITH: For life in prison, yes.
KING: For life. What do you think was the key to giving her life?
SMITH: I think it was because her trial was in Union, and the jurors had to face, you know, her family. Small town. I mean, that -- you know, people -- her stepfather run an appliance store. People had accounts with him. You know, people on the jury might have had a brother, a sister, a mother or father who had an account with her stepfather. People worked with her brother in the local textile mill. So it was just a network. And I think if it had been any other county, she would have got the death penalty.
KING: And it's funny, in "Six Degrees of Separation," which we often talk about, the man that she was dating that didn't want children, although it was not his fault that any death occurred, graduated from Auburn University...
KING: ... where Rusty Yates graduated from just a couple years later.
YATES: That's true.
KING: How do you ever handle the loss of a child?
SMITH: You just -- sometimes have you to break it down to the next five minutes. I mean, you just take it day by day. You're going to have...
KING: You feel it every day?
SMITH: Oh, absolutely.
KING: Every day.
SMITH: Every day.
KING: You see a little boy run down the street...
SMITH: Yes. You see a little boy, you hear a child with the same name, you do a double take when you look.
YATES: Exactly. If they look the same or act the same in some way or...
SMITH: That's right.
YATES: Yes, I've seen that before, too. I know exactly what he means. Yes.
KING: We'll take a break. We're going to include your phone calls for David Smith and Rusty Yates, two similarly different stories. The book about this -- and Rusty's not appearing for the book, are you, it's just the fact that a book just did come out -- is called "The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates." We'll be right back with your calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd mentioned earlier that Satan was within you. Do you recall that?
ANDREA YATES: Uh-huh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And explain how that would work then. So if you were punished, what would happen? How would you be punished?
ANDREA YATES: By being executed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So if you took your children's lives, you felt you were doing what was right for them, but you did know that it might result in your own execution. And was that a good thing or a bad thing, for you to be executed?
ANDREA YATES: It was probably a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why would that be a good thing for you to be executed?
ANDREA YATES: Because I'm not righteous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're not righteous?
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN SMITH: I want to say to my babies that your mama loves you so much, and your daddy and this whole family loves you so much. And you guys have got to be strong because you are -- I just know -- I just feel in my heart that you're OK, but you got to take care of each other. And your mama and daddy are going to be right here waiting on you when you get home. I love you so much!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: By the way, Rusty has a Web site in his children's memory called yateskids.org, right?
KING: And Rusty still is with NASA, and David manages a Wal-Mart superstore in Spartanburg. Over 400 people work for him. That keeps you occupied.
Let's go to calls for David Smith and Rusty Yates. Boston. Hello.
CALLER: How're you doing? My question to Rusty is this. Prior to the killings of his children, did he ever try to get any help or treatment for his wife for any other illnesses?
YATES: Any other illnesses? No. Mental illness, yes. I mean, we -- you know, she -- we sought medical treatment for her in 1999. She was successfully treated at that time. And then again in 2001, when she became ill, we sought medical treatment for her. She was hospitalized twice in '99, twice again in 2001. We were in the psychiatrist's office two nights before the tragedy.
KING: Was she labeled what, schizophrenic? No?
YATES: They told me she had post-partum depression. That's what they told me, so...
KING: For the last birth?
YATES: In '99 and 2001 both. And you know, back in some the medical records -- they medical records did indicate some psychosis, but that was never relayed to me.
KING: Was there some malpractice here, in your opinion?
YATES: Yes, but we've basically let the statute of limitations lapse, and you know, so...
KING: As you think back, David, did Susan ever give you any indications of being a little bit off-kilter?
SMITH: No. I mean, up to the very end, Susan was a very good mother. She took very well care of Michael and Alex, made sure they were always clean and, you know, kept them clothed very nicely. She was a great mother.
KING: Columbus, Ohio. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. This is for David. And I was wondering, who had custody of the boys when this all happened?
CALLER: And why didn't he -- why didn't she let him have custody if she didn't want the boys?
KING: Yes, why didn't she -- all right, she wants to marry this guy. He doesn't want children. Why not call you up and say, I really want to marry this guy. I love him a lot. Take the boys.
SMITH: Because, first of all, she had custody. But I think, to answer the second part of the question, it's because Lear (ph) is a small town. You don't give your children up, you know, in this small town, in front of the -- you know, in front of the whole town, especially when you're pretty much a, you know, prominent family at that time. You can't just give the children up.
KING: It was a prominent family?
SMITH: Yes. You just can't give your kids up and say, I don't want them anymore.
KING: But this way, they live.
SMITH: I know that. But you know, to her, I think she was -- she murdered them, and then she thought that was going to bring her wealthy boyfriend running to her side to protect her because she had just lost her children to a carjacker.
KING: You get to know him pretty well?
KING: But he testified at the trial, right?
KING: And he testified against her, right?
KING: So this had to be bizarre to him, too.
SMITH: Oh, absolutely. He was shocked.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with a lot more phone calls for David Smith and Rusty Yates on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Karen Hughes will be with us tomorrow night, the former top aide to President Bush, who's going to get involved in the campaign. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN SMITH: The night that this happened, before I left my house that night, Michael did something that he's never done before. He had his fooper (ph) in his mouth, and he came up to me and he took his fooper out, and he put his arms around me and he told me, I love you so much, Mama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Our guests both here in Los Angeles, David Smith, ex-husband of convicted child killer Susan Smith, and Russell "Rusty" Yates the husband of convicted child killer Andrea Yates. David manages a Wal-mart superstore in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Rusty is a computer engineer with NASA. By the way, did you think when the tragedy happened with Columbia, did you want to go to that scene?
YATES: Well, I was actually headed up to see Andrea that day when a lot of the debris from the Columbia fell right over (UNINTELLIGIBLE), where she's at, I mean, she's basically in the middle of the flight path. I saw debris on the ground when I saw her that day.
KING: No kidding. Oklahoma, hello.
CALLER: Hello. How are you? First I want to appreciate -- I'd like to tell you that we appreciate your honesty, and your frankness on your show. It's very nice. It's refreshing. The truth that I want to ask these guys, is there anything that you've seen in what happened that we can do to prevent this from happening to somebody else?
SMITH: Well, you know, I really -- with me, I don't really have an answer. Susan didn't have any, you know, signs that anything was wrong. You know, unlike Andrea.
KING: You must have thought about it 100 times.
SMITH: It runs through my mind a million times.
KING: Did you ever see her hit the kids.
SMITH: Did I miss something, was I just naive to something, but Susan didn't have any signs. That's a tough question for me to answer.
YATES: I think in our case, I think in most cases, you know, you can learn a lot from tragedy and work for prevention. In our society, we tend to, something goes bad, we say let's punish the person instead of learning from it, why did they do what they did, what were the factors that led up to their actions and see if there's anything we can correct in our society to help prevent, at least reduce the likelihood of it happening again. For example, in Andrea's case, better medical treatment certainly would have prevented this. That's one thing. I could probably, you know, and I plan to do some study on my website to that effect, I mention I'll find half a dozen things that we could change in our society to help prevent those types of things from happening, and actually maybe help even a broader segment of our population.
KING: But none of her mental illness gave you an indication of harming children.
KING: You never saw an instance where she said, I'm hearing a voice that tells me to kill the kids.
YATES: Yes, she never said anything like that. There was never any indication of that, but there are symptoms of psychosis, and you know had the doctors, you know, recognized those symptoms and kept her in the hospital, then this wouldn't have happened. Instead, they sent her home.
KING: Waterbury, Connecticut, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Mr. Yates, if I remember correctly, after you had your third child, you noticed she was having depression. Why did you go on having two more children if she couldn't handle the three she already had?
YATES: It was after the fourth. She didn't have any depression after the first three. She had depression after Luke in 1999. We struggled with that a bit. It took us a while. I never dealt with that before or seen it before, and you know, we let it progress quite some time before we sought treatment for her. When we did, when I say, that was on the order of a couple of months until things got bad and we sought treatment for it. After we sought treatment for it, it took some time for them to figure out what combinations of medications worked for her. What they told us in 1999, was that she had postpartum depression, if we had another child there was a 50/50 chance she'd become depressed again and if she did, she'd have the same symptoms and require the same treatment. So what we thought, looking ahead, was that if we had another child and she exhibited signs of depression, get treatment for her very quickly, and they would have used the same combinations of medications that worked in 1999, and you know, it would not be severe.
KING: You rolled the dice.
YATES: In other words, it was like worst case, it was something akin to the flu or about as serious as what you might call the flu and yet we both loved children and we both were grateful for every one of our children, and counted each a blessing and still do.
KING: Has faith helped you, your faith helped you?
YATES: Yes. I mean, especially in dealing with our children, you know, because you know, I thought up until the time of the funeral service I was just thinking, I couldn't focus on anything but the loss, and in the funeral service when I was saying good-bye to my children, I was saying good-bye to John, closing his casket and the thought dawned on me, I'll see you again. I was like, wow!, I'll see you again.
KING: You believe that?
YATES: Yes, I do.
KING: Did you go to your service for your kids, David?
KING: There was a funeral?
KING: Was Susan at the funeral?
SMITH: No, no.
KING: What was that like for you?
SMITH: It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
KING: Do you have faith?
SMITH: Yes. Very much.
KING: Do you believe they're somewhere?
SMITH: Yes, in heaven.
KING: Tampa, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for your two guests is, has anyone from the mental health field reached out to you, perhaps victim rights groups or even men that have been in this situation before that perhaps better understand this and prevent this in the future?
YATES: There have been some mental health professionals who have particularly taken an interest in Andrea's case. There hasn't been a whole lot in the way of trying to better understand her case so that they can work for prevention, although I think they recognize Andrea's case is pretty textbook in the sense of postpartum psychosis and bipolar. KING: This book should help, though?
YATES: When the book is out it will help people understand the case and her illness.
KING: Have psychiatrists treated Susan?
SMITH: Yes, she's had treatment, from my understanding.
KING: You don't know what their reports are or anything?
KING: To Constantine, Michigan, hello.
CALLER: First I'd like to say I'm really sorry for your losses. My question is to Rusty. Your wife was on an incredible amount of medications over the years before this all happened. How much do you think that this may have played into what, you know, the outcome. Also, with all the new warnings with the FDA on suicides and violence, do you think that there might be a possibility of looking into her case again?
YATES: I think that's a very good question. I don't know about looking into the case again, and I don't know whether that will be on any of the points of appeal. I know they didn't focus on that very much during the trial. Andrea, the two medications she was on at the time of the tragedy are both on that list, Rimaron (ph) and Effexor, and in fact they're given in combination together, they have an even stronger effect than separately. So I definitely think the medication played a part, someone asked me once, why June 20, why did it happen on that day? Her medications were adjusted two days before. So I definitely believe that was a factor.
KING: And now that FDA study says that some of these drugs can cause people to do harm to themselves or others.
KING: Was Susan ever on any kind of medication?
SMITH: No, not that I'm aware of.
KING: Certainly no mental kind of...
SMITH: No, certainly not.
KING: Ronkonkoma, New York, hello.
CALLER: How are you doing?
CALLER: I'd like to say something to Mr. Yates, I think that he's speaking very nonchalant about this death of his five children and he's so understanding that his wife had a sickness, how would he feel if a stranger would have killed his question?
YATES: That's a good question. First of all saying I'm nonchalant about this I think is not fair. I guess in that respect, I don't see that I could have done much more for my kids or before or after, you know. I was a very good father to my children. They all loved me and I had an outstanding relationship with every one of them. You can go to my website and see for yourself. It's just at this point, there's not a whole lot I can do for them other than pray for them and memorialize them, which I'm trying to do.
The question part of that, I would say, at the time, I don't think I could have. I think if someone had come in from the outside and harmed my children in any way, I don't think I could have forgiven them but after living through this with Andrea and learning that people do things for reasons that a whole lifetime of experience and their unique chemistry, between those two, it determines a lot of our behavior and so for all I know, if I grew up, say a perpetrator came into my house and harmed my children, for all I know, if I grew up in their circumstances and their body, I might have done the same or worse. I can be angry at them for what they do but I'm not going to condemn them for what they do. If someone's dangerous, take them off the street protect citizens. I don't think we should condemn people at all.
KING: You're very understanding person. Are you shocked at that, David?
SMITH: No, no. I admire it.
KING: You understand him.
KING: You are in an entirely different circumstance, though.
SMITH: Right. I mean, my mind -- my ex-wife lied for nine days, she was trying to get away with it.
KING: If she had called you and said, take the children, would you have?
SMITH: Oh, absolutely.
KING: No question about it?
SMITH: No question.
KING: Full custody, you got them all the time?
SMITH: Absolutely, all the way.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with David Smith and Rusty Yates. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Before we get back to the calls, Deeian Alaney (ph) is charged with murdering her 8-year-old son Joshua and her 6-year-old son Luke, and injuring the 15-month-old son Aaron. This is in Texas. She is accused of bashing both boys to death with a rock on May 9 last year. She called 911 and reported that she'd killed the boys with a rock. She has pled not guilty by reason of insanity, claimed God told her to get her house in order.
What's your read on that, Rusty?
YATES: I think she was psychotic. I mean, it was -- from all indications, it was completely out of character for her and in fact all of the experts for the defense and the state have found her legally insane. So why they're prosecuting her, I don't know.
KING: It's almost incomprehensible, David, right, to think that a parent could kill their own children?
KING: I mean, it's beyond rational thinking.
KING: we can't comprehend it. Is it true that you hired someone to smash the bathtub the children were drowned in?
YATES: It was part of my renovation, but yes, I mean, I renovated parts of the house, you know, to put it up for sale, and he did. I asked him to, because I didn't want anybody taking it and doing anything malicious with it.
KING: Which they would have?
YATES: Yes, exactly.
KING: On Ebay or something.
KING: Did you stay in that house?
YATES: I stayed in there 14 months, and I have bean in an apartment since.
KING: How could have you gone home?
YATES: Well, it's kind of hard, but there's good memories there, too. So it wasn't all -- all troubling.
KING: How soon after the incident did you sleep at home?
YATES: About a week, yeah.
KING: Halifax, Nova Scotia, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: My question was for Rusty Yates. I was wondering, he forgives his wife and everything, but would he ever pursue a relationship with someone else and have children?
YATES: You know, Andrea and I have talked about that some. And you know, having -- I mean, I can see, like David, how much it means to him, you know, to have more children. And I've talked with other people who have had losses like ours. And you know, it means a lot. And we talk -- there are no definite plans or anything, but you know, I can't say that's not a possibility.
KING: In other words, if you met the right person, you would, wouldn't you?
YATES: We need to kind of get to a place where I'm free to do that with Andrea. You know, I mean, we're...
KING: You're still married?
KING: Tell me about your relationship, David, how you met the girl.
SMITH: Well, it's very well. I mean, I have a beautiful daughter and I have a beautiful son now, who's 14 months old. You know, Savannah is 3 now. And then I have a beautiful...
KING: She's 3. How did you meet your wife?
SMITH: I met Tiffany at the grocery chain I was working for.
KING: Previous to Wal-Mart?
SMITH: Right, yeah. And then I had my son now, Nicholas, a young lady who's very dear to me.
KING: That was a different woman than you had Savannah with.
SMITH: Yes. Yes.
KING: Are you married to the young lady now?
SMITH: I'm married to Tiffany, yeah.
KING: To Alliston, Ontario, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry, thanks for taking my call.
CALLER: My question is really for both gentlemen. Here they are sitting side by side. They've been through unspeakable pain, they're speaking to you and to other callers. I wonder if there's anything David and Rusty need or want to say to each other. Thank you.
SMITH: Rusty, I guess just, I know it's tough, and I can say I've been there, what you're going through. And just rely on family and God. And my advice is when things get really bad, when it gets -- you know, things get really hard, just remember that you have overcome one of the toughest things that any person can go through, and when I do that, it doesn't seem the problem that I'm going through at the time, that I'm dealing with, doesn't seem so big anymore, because I know I've walked through the biggest -- come out on the other side of one of the biggest, greatest losses a person can endure.
YATES: I understand that. Yeah.
KING: What would you say to David?
YATES: Well, I feel for David, every time, you know, like when we were showing the scenes on there. And you know, he's been through tremendous pain, not just the loss of his children, but you know, the -- you know, really the lying and betrayal and deceit of his wife afterwards, and that was, you know, tremendously painful, and I just am glad you're able to find some happiness in life now, and I hope it continues for you, you know.
KING: Differences here is you love your wife. You don't love her anymore.
KING: And that was over when this happened. Before it happened.
YATES: No, I'll always love and support Andrea. Always.
KING: Houston, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Hi, I just had a basically a comment for Rusty. He says he loves his wife and is standing by her. I really think that the reason, and because I'm from Houston, we probably had more coverage of the case than any other city, I think he really -- he's taking part of the guilt, because like she said, after '99, when she was in the psychiatrist, that woman should have never been left alone with those children, two nights before at a psychiatrist, and they should not have had more children with her problems. I think that he really absorbs part of the guilt, that's why he's sticking by her.
KING: Rusty, comment? That's understandable.
YATES: Well, that's nice, you know, hindsight commentary. Yeah, I mean, as far as things I would do differently, I mean, to put it more constructively, there are things I would do differently. Obviously, I mean, if... KING: Sure, with hindsight.
YATES: Yeah. And if -- and that's true with any tragedy, I mean, but you know, the things I would do differently, you know, I...
KING: Well, no mother -- has children ever taken away from the mother from postpartum depression? I'd never heard of that.
YATES: I'm sorry?
KING: I mean, when a mother has postpartum depression, I'd never heard of children being taken away.
YATES: Well, the doctors make a determination whether or not -- they don't take the children away, but they hospitalize the mother, you know. So that's where I feel kind of helpless. It's like you can say responsibility, where I have a responsibility to my family for the safety of my family, but I don't have the authority to hospitalize Andrea. I don't have the authority to prescribe medication, or the knowledge.
KING: So you never had a thought, I could have prevented this?
YATES: I mean, obviously there are things I could have done, but when I look at it from the time going through it, did I act reasonably given what I knew of the situation at the time? Overall, I would say yeah, there are some things I would do differently. You know, one thing, Andrea is not very good about describing her needs, you know, and I definitely would have done more in terms of like our living situation beforehand, I would have never introduced her to the minister we corresponded with. I think those exacerbated her condition.
KING: The minister hurt her?
YATES: I do think so, yes. He made her at least more concerned than she would otherwise would have been about her standing before God which in turn became a delusional thought for her. There are things along those lines as far as seeking medical treatment, I mean, yes, there's one thing I would have done differently. I never felt comfortable with the treatment that her doctor was giving her in 2001. I kept going in and going in and struggling with him and hopeful that this is going to work out, and it didn't. So I would definitely have taken her to another doctor. But again, you can't, she didn't appear dangerous. None of us have training in psychosis to know she could have possibly been dangerous, and I did seek medical treatment. So in those respects, I couldn't do much more.
KING: Susan, are you shocked she had relations with prison guards?
SMITH: No, not really. She's always been, always has wanted to be the center of attention since I've known her.
KING: So she's going to adapt to prison life and have relations with guards? SMITH: That and just whatever else, I think, she'll always do something to stir up, you know, attention for herself, which will in turn bring attention to me. That's the way it's going to be.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. A couple more phone calls right after this.
KING: Sutherland, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Good evening. Hi Larry and David. My question is for you, David. When Susan becomes eligible for parole, is it your intention to fight it?
SMITH: Yes, absolutely. I don't think Susan should ever have freedom again for what she's done.
KING: She's eligible in 2023 that's 19 years from now.
KING: How old will she be?
SMITH: About 53, 54.
KING: You will appeal and fight it.
KING: Freeport, The Bahamas, hello.
CALLER: Mr. Smith and especially Mr. Yates. I was curious about your specific religious persuasion.
KING: What is your denomination, David?
SMITH: I'm methodist.
YATES: I currently go to a Church of Christ.
KING: Hollywood, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Yes, this is a question for both the gentlemen. First, I want to say I'm very sorry, and I admire you both, your respective ways that you've reconciled the situation. My question is this -- have either of you gone on any medication to help you cope, and if so, has it helped?
KING: Good question. David?
SMITH: I was on medication when it first happened, and then I was off for many years, but I have had to just start back taking medication again. KING: Depression?
SMITH: Yes, anti-depression.
KING: And finally, London, Ontario, hello.
CALLER: Hi, this question is for David. I had read an article stating that Susan's stepfather was sexually abusing her even up to two weeks prior to the deaths of the children, and that she had felt hopeless in stopping it. Is this true, and can you comment on that, please?
SMITH: Well, he was -- he did sexually abuse her when she was, I believe 13 years of age but I don't see how you can sexually abuse a 23-year-old woman. She was consensual to it and agreed to it and that had been going on for I think about eight months and she never tried to stop it.
KING: They did have a relationship in addition to seeing this other guy?
KING: Thank you both very much.
SMITH: Thank you, Larry.
KING: I know this is not easy. David Smith, the ex-husband of convicted child killer Susan Smith, and Rusty Yates, the husband of convicted child killer, Andrea Yates, and I'll be back in a couple of minutes and tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night, Karen Hughes, former top aide to President Bush. She will be very involved in the campaign. She is our special guest with a political panel to follow. Karen Hughes tomorrow night.
He's back. "NEWSNIGHT's" Aaron Brown and we're both so excited. Aaron will be up at 5:00 in the morning, I'll be up at 2:00 in the morning. The Yankees play the Devil Rays to open the American League baseball season in Tokyo. I know you can't wait, Aaron, and I know you'll be up. 5:00 a.m. is first pitch.
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