DALLAS – Darkness forged a bond between Andrea Yates and Dena Schlosser.

The two women who killed their children during psychotic religious delusions have wound up roommates and friends at a North Texas state hospital. At night, after lights out, they whisper stories too painful for the light of day. Tales of fear and guilt and memories of how life used to be.

In each other, they’ve found both mentor and peer, a support system outside their court-mandated care that, family members say, just might help them heal.

“She is almost my identical personality,” Schlosser told The Dallas Morning News in her first public comments. “I think we’ll be friends forever. I’ve only known her a short period of time, but I believe the feeling is mutual. She probably thinks that same thing.”

Yates, 42, drowned her five children, believing she was protecting them from Satan. Schlosser, 37, severed her daughter’s arms at the shoulders to offer her baby to God. Both women made headlines worldwide, and both were found not guilty by reason of insanity this year.

The women will be at Vernon or another hospital until their doctors and judges agree they should be released. They’ll probably remain in the state’s care for years. Both must learn to understand their illnesses and cope with their horrific acts.

Schlosser agreed to be interviewed multiple times over the phone with the support of her family. When she told her doctors about the conversations with The News, they told her to stop and said she had shown poor judgment.

Schlosser wanted to speak in person, but doctors did not allow it, and the hospital has not allowed a tour of the facility. Schlosser and her family described life within its walls.

In the Maple unit of the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, patients are almost completely blocked from the outside world. No television or newspapers are permitted – just the occasional call from a shared telephone or, even more rare, a visit from a relative.

The hospital protects the women from those who hate them and those who pity them. While some point to their notorious cases as reasons for mental health reform or to rewrite the state’s insanity laws, Yates and Schlosser live quiet lives focused on regaining and maintaining their sanity.

“We talk about our past, we talk about our memories, our fun memories, the things that our kids did,” said Schlosser, who speaks quickly and softly, punctuated with nervous laughter.

Yates did not want to come to the phone. But ex-husband Rusty Yates, who still regularly visits her, said Schlosser has become a friend.

“Hopefully, they can help each other through the long recovery process,” he said.

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