People: Rusty Yates Marries 'A Fine and Loving Person'

Russell (Rusty) Yates was married Saturday, two days before his ex-wife, Andrea, was scheduled to face retrial in a Houston court on charges stemming from the drowning of her five children in a bathtub in June 2001. (She may be granted a delay.) Yates's new bride is Laura Arnold, a mother of two sons, 9 and 21. The wedding ceremony took place at the Clear Lake Church of Christ, south of Houston, site of funeral services for the Yates children. Yates and Arnold met through Arnold's older son, Kyle, who'd become friendly with Yates when they played on a church basketball team, according to Yates's aunt, the Rev. Fairy Caroland.

Yates began dating Arnold shortly after his divorce became final on March 17, 2005. In December, he took Arnold to Tennessee to meet his extended family, and he proposed that month. They've worked for 17 years at the same sprawling NASA complex without ever meeting. (He is an engineer for the space agency; she works for a contractor.) "She's a fine and loving person," says SuzanneO'Malley, author of " 'Are You There Alone?' The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates," who continues to talk with Rusty Yates. Both Yates and Arnold are active in church affairs, including a program called the Stephen Ministry, which trains church members to counsel people weathering difficult times. As part of the ministry, Yates has been meeting with Becky Morris's 21-year-old son. "Rusty's been really great," Morris says.

Yates and Arnold set their wedding date weeks before District Judge Belinda Hill selected the March trial date. Yates, who visited his ex-wife six weeks ago, told the Associated Press in an e-mail, "Andrea has been aware of [the wedding] for a couple of months, and she wishes me the best, just as I wish her the best." (He did not reply to NEWSWEEK's requests for an interview.) But Andrea's friend Bob Holmes said that while Rusty had told her he was engaged, she learned of the wedding date only from the public announcement last week. "She wishes them well," Holmes says. "But still it really hurt [her] not to hear it from him." O'Malley, who exchanges letters with her, says: "Andrea has communicated to me in writing that she's sad no longer to be Mrs. Yates ... It hurts her, but I don't think she begrudges him that opportunity."

After the wedding, the couple expect to remain in the area. "Rusty's always loved children," Caroland says, but she's uncertain whether the couple plans to have children. The memory of his dead little ones still haunts all of them. "We'll always miss those kids," Caroland says. "Certain dates roll around and we remember it was one of their birthdays," she says. And at a church reception for the couple earlier last week, the pair suggested that instead of gifts, friends make donations to the Mental Health Association of Greater Houston.