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On the outside, Andrea seemed like a devoted, involved stay-at-home mom. But inside, she was battling a mental disorder that disrupted her thoughts—and, she says, led her to do the unthinkable.
Andrea and her husband of 16 years already had a 13-year-old daughter when they decided to have a second child, a little boy they named Garrett. “He was precious,” Andrea says. “He was so smart. He was already reading in kindergarten. He would entertain the class. He was so outgoing.”
As Garrett grew older, Andrea was active in his school and volunteered for the PTA. But underneath the surface, she says she was troubled with dark, painful thoughts. “I struggled,” she says. “Something didn’t seem exactly right. I had bad feelings about myself that I was worthless, that I wasn’t a good mom, that I wasn’t a good person.”
On April 14, 2005, the negative thoughts took over—Andrea tried to commit suicide. “I went home and ran a tub of water and got in it, and I had gotten a knife from the kitchen, and I proceeded to slit my wrists,” she says. “The phone rang, and I was in the process of…. I was cutting it at the time that [my daughter] called, and I stopped.”
After bandaging up her wrists, Andrea told her husband what she had done. “He tried to convince me, ‘Andrea, you’re not a bad mom.’ And I listened to him, and I tried to take all that in, and I thought, ‘I can, I need to turn my thoughts around,'” she says. “But they kept racing in my mind, and it was so negative. I just felt the weight of the world was on me.”
That same night, Andrea stayed up late working on a costume for Garrett to wear to school the next day—but she just couldn’t finish it. Instead, she kept Garrett home from school, saying they didn’t feel well. “I just couldn’t get it together, and the voices started coming that he would be better off,” she says. “And I just thought his life, things were going to be so bad, and the voices just kept getting louder and louder.”
Then, she says, the voices took over completely. According to Andrea, she placed 6-year-old Garrett in a bathtub filled with water…and began choking him. “He said, ‘You’re choking me.’ He said that a couple times, but then he didn’t say anything else,” she says. “It was just so unbelievable that I did that. I would never hurt him. I would never, never hurt him. He was so loved. He was so wanted. But I don’t know why I did it. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Garrett was rushed to a hospital, where he died four days later. Andrea pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and she is currently serving a sentence of 42 years at a maximum-security prison.
Andrea says the person who killed her son “wasn’t me. It wasn’t the real me. It was a very sick me, because I would never hurt him. Never,” she says.
Although Andrea says she had sought help in the past, she claims the medication her family doctor gave her didn’t work for her symptoms. “The antidepressants he gave me … they either made me sleep more or be on the manic stage, be up all the time. I would clean the house for days. I would not sleep,” she says. “It’s like you can’t see how bad things really are. If I had any idea what I would have done, I would have gotten help.”
Once Andrea arrived in prison, she says the doctor there immediately diagnosed her problem as bipolar disorder. Within 10 days of starting the medications he prescribed, Andrea says she noticed results. “What a difference it has made in my life. It made me feel like maybe there was a reason that I took Garrett, you know? Maybe there was an answer,” she says.
“It was almost like relief that I wasn’t just this horrible person that killed my child one day, you know, that there was something that caused me to have this happen, because I miss him so much. I miss being his mom. I miss saying prayers at night. I miss taking him to Sunday school,” she says. “My life, per se, is over in a lot of ways because the guilt is so heavy, because, you know, he’s gone and I did it.”
Two of Andrea’s friends, Daphen and Kathy, say they continue to support Andrea through everything. Daphen—who has known Andrea since middle school—says that most of the signs were hidden, but she did notice some peculiar behavior. “She missed a lot of school. She wore her clothes inside out the night before … like a sweatshirt so she could just flip it the next morning,” she says. “Because she’s my best friend, I would just say, ‘She’s just eccentric, you know, beats a different drum.’ I could always say that.”
When Andrea was feeling down as an adult, Daphen and Kathy say they would often try to help her realize that she was a good mom. “[Andrea] could never live up to what she thought society expected or what society says is a good mother,” Kathy says.
Daphen says both she and Kathy knew that Andrea had tried to kill herself once before—not long after Garrett’s birth—but they attributed it to postpartum depression.
Just weeks before Garrett’s death, Daphen says she noticed a change in Andrea’s behavior. She says Andrea became very anxious over what would normally be simple decisions—and that Andrea admitted to hearing voices. “When you look back on the hindsight, [people are] like, ‘Well didn’t you think that was crazy or something?’ Well I justified it,” Daphen says.
Daphen—whose own child has been diagnosed with early onset bipolar disorder—says if you notice symptoms in a loved one, it is important to do the research and speak with doctors who specialize in the illness. “It’s not just about medication,” Daphen says. “You need to also get therapy because therapy comes with the medication.”
Andrea’s husband declined to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and her daughter, now 21 years old, also turned down the invitation.
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Va. mom may face death penalty | Webmin — (The Roanoke Times)
Police allege that on April 15, 2005, Andrea Petrosky drowned her son Garrett in a bathtub after strangling him, then called 911 and confessed. Charged with capital murder, the 39-year-old former Roanoke resident is facing the death penalty.
Petrosky defense counsel Jay Finch with the Capital Defender Office for Western Virginia confirmed this week that her attorneys have filed notice of intent to put on an insanity defense. Finch declined to comment further.
The insanity defense is raised in less than 1 percent of felony cases nationwide, said University of Virginia law professor Richard Bonnie. Most acquittals by reason of insanity happen because prosecution and defense reach an agreement before a case goes to trial, he said.
If an insanity plea actually goes to trial, the defense has an uphill battle, Bonnie said.
Petrosky’s case resembles the high-profile case of Andrea Yates, a Texas woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001.
Yates, too, faced the death penalty. A jury sentenced Yates to life in prison, but the verdict was overturned. On Wednesday, a new jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity.
In the Yates case, the prosecution and defense agreed that Yates was mentally ill and that she killed her children as a result of her delusions, but they disagreed over whether she was legally insane, Bonnie said.
Petrosky’s defense attorneys received the results of a mental evaluation before announcing their intent to pursue an insanity plea. Prosecutors are also seeking an evaluation. The future of the case will likely depend on whether the psychological experts for the two sides agree, Bonnie said.
According to statistics kept by the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, an average of 35 people a year are acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity in Virginia.
Prosecutors and police have not commented as to whether they know of any motive for the slaying. Petrosky’s trial is set to begin Oct. 16.
When she was charged, she became only the third person in Virginia to be prosecuted under “Annie’s Law,” a relatively new capital murder statute that makes it a capital crime for a person 21 or older to kill a child younger than 14.
Petrosky and her family lived in Roanoke for several years before moving to Bristol in 2004.