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GRIEF-stricken father buries five children allegedly drowned by their mother


HOUSTON (AP) _ The father of five children allegedly drowned by their mother choked up with grief at their funeral service Wednesday, then placed a blanket next to each little body before the caskets were closed for the final time.

``I can't possibly tell you everything there is to know about each one of them,'' Yates told some 500 mourners at the Clear Lake Church of Christ, a few blocks from where the Yates home. ``But I can give you a glimpse of who they were.''

Then he described them, losing composure at times. The five white caskets were arrayed in an arc, each with a ribbon bearing a child's name.

Six-month-old Mary was dressed in a pink sleeper. Her 3-year-old brother Paul was to her left and 2-year-old Luke to her right. Noah, 7, wore a multicolored sweater emblazoned with a truck. John, 5, wore an orange and black sweater.

Noah, Yates said, was intelligent, independent and a lover of bugs; John, rough and tumble with a great smile; Paul the most well-behaved; Luke was the troublemaker, the one most likely to challenge boundaries; and Mary was the ``princess'' of the family.

``If the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, that's exactly what he's done,'' Yates said. ``He gave me all these children and now he's taken them away.''

After a service of about 75 minutes, the caskets were wheeled slowly from the church for the brief procession to a nearby cemetery.

The children's mother, Andrea Yates, remained in jail under a 24-hour suicide watch. She was said to be suffering from postpartum depression at the time of the killings. She has been charged with capital murder.

Russell Yates arranged pictures of the children on a table in a church hallway, the Rev. Byron Fike said. One picture shows a smiling Noah in the bathtub with sections of wet hair sticking up.

``I don't think there are words in any language that can describe what has happened,'' the minister said.

``I am just trying to focus on the fact that they are safe and nothing can ever hurt them again,'' said Terry Arnold, co-owner of a bookstore where the family bought supplies to home school their children. ``I don't think I've ever prayed this much in my life.''

On Tuesday, Judge Belinda Hill issued a gag order prohibiting any attorneys, police officers or witnesses in the case from discussing it with reporters.

Defense attorney George Parnham has said he is considering an insanity defense. Yates' husband has said his wife suffered from postpartum depression.

Prosecutor Chuck Rosenthal, reached before the gag order took effect, said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty should be made within three weeks.

Police were called to the Yates' suburban Houston home June 20, when they found the lifeless bodies of the four youngest children still wet under a sheet on a bed. Noah was found in the bathtub. Police say Andrea Yates confessed to the slayings.

A few blocks from the church, four blue balloons and a pink balloon rise up from a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and crayon drawings in the Yates' front yard.

``They were all so well-behaved,'' said Joanne Juren, who owns the bookstore with Arnold. ``They were just the perfect little children. I told Andrea the last time she was here that if we had a gold star to give for the best children we would give it to hers. Andrea just beamed.''
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