Pushing Up Lilies

Mothers Who Drown Their Children

Episode Summary

On this episode, we delve into the haunting and deeply disturbing phenomenon of maternal filicide, where mothers, like Andrea Yates, Lashaun Harris, Britney Medina and Susan Smith, commit the unimaginable act of drowning their own children. Join me as I explore the intricate stories of these women, their motives, the psychological factors at play, and the shocking details that led to these heartbreaking crimes. This episode serves as a sobering reminder of the fragile nature of the human psyche and the tragic consequences it can have on innocent lives. * Listener discretion is strongly advised.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Matson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 I know that many times when we hear stories in the news about moms or dads killing their Children, we always wonder what on earth went wrong.

0:40 And about 50% of the time when a child is killed, the mom is the culprit, although women commit only about 14% of violent crimes in the United States.

0:56 And the altruistic motive is the most common and that is where a mother rationalizes that killing the child is in the child's best interest.

1:08 Many times the mom is psychotic, and she kills without any kind of motive claims to be hearing voices.

1:18 That is the reason that they give for killing their child.

1:22 One of them is just maltreatment, which is where a mother really doesn't necessarily mean to kill the child.

1:31 But because of the abuse over the years, death occurs and then an unwanted child is you know where the mother believes her child is a hindrance.

1:42 Many times as in the Susan Smith child murders, she had a boyfriend who didn't want Children.

1:50 She felt like her Children were basically in the way and were going to complicate her relationship.

1:56 And then also a very common one is spouse revenge.

2:00 That is the rarest, although we seem to see it frequently where she kills her child basically to just emotionally strike out against the father or they're in the middle of a nasty divorce and she suspects that there will be a custody battle.

2:19 And so mom may kill the Children to keep the dad from getting them from her and those types of things.

2:26 Y'all may remember the story back in October of 2005 when Lashaun Harris two weeks prior had told her family members that she was actually going to feed her three small Children to the sharks, and she traveled with her kids to San Francisco and basically walked to the end of pier seven and threw her Children into the San Francisco Bay.

2:51 Now La Shawn was 23 and she was a homeless mother, and she had a history of schizophrenia and several other mental illnesses.

3:02 But she told police that she heard voices telling her to throw her Children into the water so that they could reunite with God in heaven.

3:11 A jury acquitted her of first-degree murder but found her guilty of three counts of second-degree murder.

3:17 And a judge declared her criminally insane and sentenced her to a psychiatric hospital.

3:23 Most recently, Britney Medina walked into the Lawrence County jail on the afternoon of September 26th.

3:33 And that's this year 2023 she confessed to drowning her kids and she said she did it so that they could go to heaven.

3:41 Now, Medina was arrested on two counts of murder after the police began investigating the deaths of her Children, Jackson who was three and Maddie who was one.

3:52 When investigators arrived at her home, they found the two Children deceased inside the bathtub.

3:59 It did appear that they had drowned, which was consistent with what she said happened.

4:05 She lived there at the home with her boyfriend and the two Children.

4:10 She basically told the police that she had sent her kids to heaven.

4:15 She also took half a gram of Xanax and some Suboxone the night before and then reportedly snorted three lines of cocaine.

4:26 Now that morning, she made breakfast for the Children and then put cartoons on for them.

4:33 And then her boyfriend left for work at around 2 30 in the afternoon.

4:40 Medina said that she started hearing voices telling her she needed to send her Children to heaven today or someone would kidnap them and put them in a dark hole.

4:52 Now she told the police that the voices began threatening to torture her and her Children.

4:59 She went into the master bathroom and basically filled the bathtub up with water.

5:05 She told the kids she loved them; she gave them a kiss and then she described to the police submerging the Children under water at the same time by holding them around their necks until they quit moving and no longer had a pulse and had appeared to be deceased.

5:24 As soon as she committed the crime, she put on dry clothes and then drove to the jail to confess.

5:30 This all happened around 4 30 in the afternoon and she was at the jail to turn herself in by 4:50 taken into custody, booked facing two charges of felony murder and two charges of felony neglect.

5:46 And then we all remember the case of Andrea Yates.

5:50 And what's really interesting is when I very first started work in the field of death investigation, I got a job in Houston for the Harris County medical examiner's office.

6:02 And the first training that I went through was provided by some of the doctors there.

6:09 Some of the pathologists that worked at the medical examiner's office in Harris County.

6:14 One thing that I got to see were the crime scene photos from when Andrea Yates murdered her Children.

6:23 Like literally, I was just starting in the field, I thought to myself, if I can handle a case like this, then I can probably handle just about anything.

6:35 The photos were terrible to look at.

6:39 But at the same time, I think that in a lot of cases, they probably prepared me for worst case scenario.

6:48 Although I thought at the time.

6:50 Oh my gosh, why would they try to scare us off by showing us this in the very beginning of the class?

6:55 I think what they were also trying to do is maybe just prepare us for the worst thing that can happen and to make sure that we were up for the job, basically, I know that many people always say to me, you know, I don't understand how you do your job.

7:11 I don't understand how you can deal with the deaths of Children.

7:16 It is super difficult, but it can also tell you that it was more difficult for me working in a setting where the Children would come in and were dying and we couldn't save them.

7:31 And I had to watch them die.

7:34 That was much more difficult for me than going to a scene where death had already occurred.

7:41 And I know from a nursing standpoint, a lot of nurses or a lot of people in the medical field can probably understand that the most difficult part is being there when it happens or feeling like you could have done something differently, are feeling like you didn't do enough and then going home, kind of feeling somewhat defeated.

8:04 The Yates case occurred back in 2001 and her Children were very young, like her Children were between the ages of one and seven, her husband rusty left their home in Houston for work and this was back in June of one Andrea who was suffering from severe postpartum depression, drowned her three youngest sons and put their bodies on the bed in the master bedroom and covered them.

8:38 Now, her oldest son's name was Noah.

8:41 He was seven.

8:43 He had been spared at this point.

8:46 But then Andrea drowned her daughter.

8:50 Seven-year-old Noah saw his sister floating in the water and was terrified.

8:56 He tried to turn away and get away.

9:00 But Yates caught him and held him down.

9:03 Her first trial was in 2002 and she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life.

9:09 At that time, three years later, the conviction was overturned.

9:14 And in 2006, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and she was released from prison and placed in a mental hospital.

9:26 I did go to a state mental hospital for my psychiatric rotation when I was in nursing school.

9:34 And I think I may have mentioned this to you all before, but it was like one of the most interesting places I had ever been.

9:41 We were allowed to go in the common area where there were foosball tables and shuffleboard and a coffee pot and televisions and couches.

9:55 And everyone was of course medicated but allowed to walk about in the common area and basically live what became a normal life.

10:07 To them, they were able to sit and converse with us.

10:11 We had the ability to go look at their records to see what they were there for, what it was that they had done and what crimes they committed.

10:20 Some of them were there for murder.

10:24 Some of them had murdered their entire family.

10:27 And so I just found it strange that I was able to sit on the couch and just talk to them and we were allowed to ask them questions about their crime.

10:37 We could ask them, you know, do you know why you did what you did?

10:41 And many of them would say, you know, I heard voices or voices told me to do it.

10:47 The facility that we were in was all male.

10:51 And I do know that there were people there that we were not allowed access to.

10:56 There were people there who had to be by themselves and were not allowed in the common area.

11:01 We stayed there for a week in the dorms.

11:04 And it was probably the most interesting part of nursing school to me and why I never chose to go into that field.

11:16 I'm not quite sure.

11:17 I mean, I guess essentially I did, because jail nursing is part of forensic nursing.

11:25 And so there are many forensic nurses who work in jails as well as doing death investigation and sexual assault exams.

11:33 And so the term forensic nurses also encompasses nurses who work and the jail systems.

11:42 It was so intriguing to sit and actually be that close to someone who committed that kind of a heinous crime and actually be able to talk to them.

11:51 Mind you, like I said, they were medicated.

11:53 Who knows how the conversation would have gone if they had not had their meds for the day.

12:00 Back to Andrea Yates.

12:03 Her husband Rusty had purchased a bus from a traveling minister years ago and he and Andrea lived in that bus before moving into their house.

12:14 The gentleman that they purchased the bus from, this minister, his name was Michael.

12:21 He had extreme views.

12:23 Those included ideas that bad mothers created bad Children who were doomed to burn in hell.

12:31 And that attitude heavily influenced Andrea.

12:36 And so this happened when her and Rusty had first married, and the Children weren't even born yet.

12:44 This could have been the reason why she stated during her trial that she felt that killing her Children would save their souls.

12:54 She had a history of mental health issues and in 1999 she overdosed on Trazodone and that's a med that many people take for depression and also for sleep.

13:08 And at that time, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

13:13 Now she was admitted to a psych hospital after trying to kill herself with a knife and she was sent home after two months of inpatient treatment.

13:22 And at that time, she was given Haldol.

13:26 Now Haldol is a medication that is used to treat schizophrenia.

13:31 It's a first-generation antipsychotic, it rebalances the dopamine in your system to help improve thinking and mood and behavior.

13:43 I can tell you that it is not uncommon to see people in the emergency room who are having psychotic episodes that need to be given held all.

13:54 And when I worked for the medical examiner's office in Houston, I did some part time work at local hospitals in the emergency room as a nurse on my days off, mainly when my daughter was visiting her dad, and I was bored.

14:10 But what a way to solve your boredom.

14:12 Right.

14:13 I was an agency nurse working in the, and I would be given the psychiatric patients.

14:21 We all know in the nursing field, it's not uncommon for agency nurses who are normally paid more than the nurses that are on staff are usually not treated the best.

14:33 They're given the crappiest patients the most difficult patients.

14:38 Some would deny this.

14:39 But I've seen it in too many cases.

14:42 I was given the patients who came in needing Halah and most of the time I would have to call security to hold them down just to give them the injection.

14:55 But anyway, this is what Andrea Yates was prescribed.

15:00 She became pregnant again in March of 2000.

15:03 Just within the year after attempting to kill herself by overdosing on Trazodone, she had been told that her postpartum psychosis would return she had to stop taking Haldol at that point.

15:18 And then her daughter, Mary was born that November of 2000.

15:24 Several months later, when Andrea's father passed away, she had a very hard time dealing with his death.

15:31 She stopped drinking fluids.

15:33 She started cutting herself, she wouldn't feed her daughter.

15:38 And then she would read the Bible obsessively.

15:42 She saw a new psychiatrist after that, and she was put on Hal doll again.

15:47 A psychiatrist believed that Yates got this idea about killing her Children after watching a Law-and-Order episode.

15:57 I don't know when this came up, but apparently it came up at some point during the trial and the show's producers denied that of course, they didn't want to take any sort of blame.

16:09 But television shows are a true depiction of what can happen.

16:14 And to say that it put the idea in her head, I mean, maybe she saw it and remembered what she had seen.

16:22 She was psychotic, she was schizophrenic.

16:25 She'd had a lot of mental health issues.

16:27 Now, prosecutors questioned why Rusty Yates would leave his wife alone with the Children when he knew that she was mentally unstable the day that these murders occurred.

16:40 Rusty knew that her mom would be there in less than an hour after he left.

16:47 I mean, I guess from his standpoint, he felt like an hour wasn't a very long time and he felt fairly comfortable because of her actions that morning or the way she was acting with the Children, I guess he did not suspect that she would snap and that what happened would happen.

17:08 Now, Rusty did divorce Andrea after this and later remarried and had a son with his new wife and then his new wife filed for divorce in 2017.

17:20 Rusty did an interview with Oprah and told Oprah that he calls Andrea regularly and visits her once a year and he blames her illness and her doctors for everything that happened and everything that she did.

17:39 Now, she lives in a low security state mental hospital.

17:42 Now in Kerrville, she had suffered from bulimia and depression even as a teenager.

17:49 This had been going on for quite some time.

17:53 She met Rusty back at an apartment complex that they lived in and then they were married in 1993.

18:01 And then they bought this four-bedroom house in Friendswood, having been depressed as a child.

18:07 And after the birth of their fourth child, her depression resurfaced.

18:12 Rusty had found her shaking one day and chewing her fingers.

18:17 And then the day after that, she had attempted to overdose, she was hospitalized and given antidepressants.

18:24 She had held a knife to her neck and begged Rusty to let her die in July of 99.

18:32 She had a nervous breakdown and had two suicide attempts.

18:37 The interesting thing and I did not know this is that one month prior to the killings.

18:46 She'd gone so far as to fill the tub up before and had a plan to drown the kids.

18:54 On June 20th, it had been over a month since that had occurred when Rusty left her for that one hour.

19:04 That's when she drowned the Children.

19:07 She started with John, Paul and Luke and then laid them in the bed and then she drowned Mary and then left her floating and then Noah, the oldest, bless his heart, was seven.

19:21 And he asked her what was wrong?

19:24 She caught him and drowned him too.

19:27 She left him in the tub and then put Mary in the bed in John's arms and called the police waiting for an officer to arrive on scene.

19:40 I feel like the takeaway from all this is mental illness is serious.

19:47 Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness, and it affects how a person thinks and how they act and how they feel.

19:57 It has to be distressing for the person that's going through it.

20:01 And we naturally know that it's very distressing for their family and friends.

20:07 But I also feel like in cases like this, we can't let our guard down because we had forewarning basically of what Andrea Yates had planned to do.

20:19 She'd gone as far as to fill the bathtub with water.

20:23 I feel like it's important to stay aware and not to forget when we know that someone has a history that they have a history and that we need to keep our eyes open and our ears open and not let down our guard because it is naturally very serious.

20:44 Many people who have killed and drowned their Children have been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

20:50 It doesn't discriminate.

20:52 It's very important if you know someone who needs help or needs treatment to get them the help, they need so that you're not in danger so that your family is not in danger.

21:04 That's kind of my takeaway from all of this is to make sure if you have family members that need help, that they get the help they need.

21:14 I think we've all met people that we felt needed help.

21:19 Mental illness is huge everywhere, all across the US and worldwide.

21:24 It's hard sometimes to get the help for people that they need, especially with insurance being the way it is.

21:31 I do think that even getting someone, a visit with a psychiatrist or a psychologist or somebody who can at least properly diagnose them and hopefully get them on medications that they would be able to get the help they need and be able to survive in this crazy world.

21:52 Lord knows how we all survive the world.

21:55 Sometimes there are many cases again.

21:58 I remember the Susan Smith case now she murdered her two sons and that was in 94.

22:05 That was the very first case I think that I've ever seen where a mom had drowned her kids.

22:13 I can remember when she claimed that her kids had been kidnapped and there was this Carjacking and then when it was found that she was the one that committed the crimes.

22:23 I was like, are you kidding me?

22:25 I mean, I thought how could a mom do that?

22:28 I was still in nursing school.

22:31 I graduated in 95.

22:33 And so I wasn't a nurse yet.

22:35 Much less interested in the forensics field.

22:38 But that was probably one case that made me interested in the forensic field.

22:44 Now, she did get life in prison with the possibility of parole and she's eligible for parole in November of next year.

22:52 She's at, I think, a correctional institution in South Carolina.

22:58 She had a pretty stable life growing up.

23:00 Her father did kill himself when she was six, I say stable.

23:04 And then she attempted suicide at the age of 13.

23:09 Her mother, though Beverly Russell had molested her when she was a teenager.

23:14 And then one newspaper claim that that continued until six months before she murdered her Children.

23:24 She attempted suicide a second time in 1989 after the man she was dating, who was married, ended their affair.

23:35 And then she married David Smith, and they had two sons and then their relationship was very rocky to say the least.

23:43 And then they separated several times before they divorced.

23:49 She did claim that her vehicle had been carjacked by a man who drove away with her sons inside.

23:55 And then this is the crazy thing, ok?

23:58 For nine days, she was on television pleading for their safe return.

24:04 Ok?

24:04 This reminds me of the Chris Watts case where Chris Watts was on television saying that he felt like his wife would come back and just was very nonchalant about the whole thing.

24:15 Didn't seem super worried.

24:17 And I can remember seeing Susan Smith on TV, crying, and asking for her kids to be brought back.

24:24 And then there was just this big nationwide surge and then she confessed on November 3rd of 94 to letting her car roll into the lake and them drowning.

24:37 She was dating a rather wealthy local man.

24:41 He had sent her a letter ending their relationship prior to the murders because he did not want Children.

24:49 Of course, the prosecution presented it in court that she murdered her sons in order to start this new amazing life with this wealthy man that she had been dating who didn't want the Children.

25:01 We know that we're logical thinking people, but we know that she was going to get caught and she was never going to live this great life that she foresaw, but she honestly was probably just not in her right mind.

25:18 But during the penalty phase, they wanted her to get the death penalty.

25:25 And then the jury ultimately voted against imposing the death penalty.

25:29 And that's when she got life in prison.

25:31 And that was in 95.

25:33 But I'm interested to see when she comes up for parole, what's going to happen.

25:38 That's something that we need to watch for in the upcoming year is what happens at her parole hearing and whether or not she's released.

25:48 I am so glad that the weather is starting to become more mild here in Texas, we've actually had to put our sweatshirts on which I absolutely love sweatshirt weather And so we haven't really had to deal with the heat anymore and we actually got some rain.

26:02 Hopefully everybody's getting some relief from whatever's going on in your part of the world.

26:08 Again, if you have any stories or anything that you'd like for me to look into or discuss over the air or if you'd like to be interviewed about something that's happened in your life that you haven't really had a chance to talk about.

26:22 I'd love to hear from you Julie at PushingUpLilies.com.

26:26 Keep aware that our website will soon have Murder Merch Store that will be open and there will be items available for sale on that.

26:36 I hope everyone has an amazing week and we will talk to you soon.

26:41 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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26:55 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at pushinguplilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.