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Friday, November 17, 2023

Diane Staudte and the Power of Poison

     In 2012, 62-year-old Mark Staudte resided with his wife Diane and their four children in a modest neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri. The couple had met years earlier at a small Lutheran College in Kansas. While active in the church, Diane and Mark kept to themselves. A man with strong political opinions who regularly wrote letters to the editor, Mr. Staudte had not been good at holding down a steady job. He eventually stopped trying and devoted most of his time to family matters and playing in a band he formed called "Messing With Destiny."

     Mark Staudte's 51-year-old wife Diane played the organ at church and unlike her husband didn't have much to say. The couple's oldest child, 26-year-old Shaun, suffered from a mild form of autism. Sarah Staudte, 24, was having a hard time finding a job. Rachel Staudte, two years younger than her sister Sarah, was a dean's list student at Missouri State University. She played the flute at church. The youngest member of the family was an eleven-year-old girl.

     On April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, Mark Stuadte died suddenly at home. To the emergency personnel who rushed to the house Diane explained that her husband hadn't been feeling well. He had recently experienced three seizures. When asked if her husband had a history of this she said he had not suffered seizures in the past.

     The Greene County Medical Examiner Dr. Douglas Anderson, without an autopsy or ordering toxicological tests, ruled Mark Staudte's manner of death as natural. The forensic pathologist did not identify specifically what had caused this man to die. Pursuant to Diane Staudte's instructions her husband's body was cremated. At his memorial service friends and family couldn't help noticing that Diane's demeanor bordered on jubilant.

     On September 2, 2012, almost five months after Mark Staudte's sudden and mysterious passing tragedy once again visited the Staudte house. This time it was Diane's oldest child Shaun who became ill and suddenly died at the age of 26. Once again Dr. Douglas Anderson, without the aid of an autopsy or toxicological tests, ruled his death as natural. The medical examiner did not, however, identify the disease that had taken the young man's life. Diane Staudte made sure that Shaun's body, like his father's, was consumed by fire. For a woman who, within a period of five months had lost her husband and her oldest child, Diane seemed unfazed by the unexpected deaths. Indeed, her spirits seemed to have been lifted.

     On the day after Shaun's passing the Springfield police received an anonymous tip from a man who said he was a friend of the Staudte family. According to the caller Mark and Shaun Staudte had been poisoned to death by Diane. The police did not act on this tip because, according to the medical examiner, both men had died natural deaths. Without a finding of homicide there was nothing to investigate.

     Sarah Staudte fell ill on June 10, 2013. Paramedics came to the house and rushed her to a nearby hospital. The next day as the 24-year-old fought for her life the Springfield police received a second anonymous tip in which the caller accused Diane Staudte of poisoning the third member of her family. This time the Springfield police sent a detective to the hospital to question doctors and nurses.

     According to hospital personnel who were caring for the young woman, her mother had visited the patient briefly during which time she joked around with the medical staff. One of the nurses informed the detective that Diane Staudte told hospital personnel that she wasn't going to let her daughter's illness ruin a Florida vacation she planned to take in the near future. A physician described Sarah's condition as "very suspicious." The doctor told the investigator that in his opinion she had been poisoned. Sarah Staudte returned home after a week in the hospital.

     On June 20, 2013, after being asked to appear at the Springfield Police Department for questioning, Diane Staudte, following a short interrogation, confessed to poisoning all three members of her family. Over a period of days before the deaths of her husband and son she had spiked their drinks with the sweet taste of antifreeze. Diane had poisoned her husband's Gatorade simply because she "hated" him. She had laced Shaun's Coke with the poison because she considered him "worse than a pest." Diane told her interrogators that she had poisoned her oldest daughter Sarah because the girl "would not get a job and had student loans that had to be paid." Diane insisted that in murdering Mark and Shaun and attempting to kill Sarah she had acted alone.

     When detectives questioned Rachel Staudte, the 22-year-old college student, she admitted that she had helped her mother commit the crimes. The two of them had used the Internet to research how to administer antifreeze as a poisoning agent.

     On June 21, 2013 a Greene County assistant prosecutor charged Diane and Rachel Staudte with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. The judge denied both women bail.

     According to doctors, while Sarah Staudte survived her poisoning she would suffer the neurological effects of the antifreeze for the rest of her life. The eleven-year-old Staudte girl was living with relatives. With her father and brother dead, her mother and one of her sisters charged with murder and assault, and the other sister permanently disabled, this girl's family no longer existed. Such is the power of poison.

     In May 2015 Rachel Staudte pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. She agreed to testify against her mother in the event her case went to trial. The judge sentenced the 25-year-old to two life prison terms plus twenty years. Under the terms of this sentence she wouldn't be eligible for parole until she served 42 years.

     On January 20, 2016 Diane Staudte pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder in the death of her husband and one count of first-degree assault in the poisoning of her daughter, Sarah. Pursuant to the plea deal she avoided the death penalty but would spend the rest of her life behind bars.

     In May 2016 ABC News acquired video tapes of the police interrogation of Diane Staudte and her daughter Rachel. As part of her confession, the mother said, "I'm not a perpetual killer. I'm just stupid. I regret doing it. I really do. I've screwed up everybody. I've screwed up my whole family."

3 comments:

  1. "I'm not a perpetual killer. I'm just stupid. I regret doing it. I really do. I've screwed up everybody. I've screwed up my whole family."
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    Gee whiz, ya think???

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  2. These are some evil women right there. Wow. The daughter should have got erxactly what the mom did. They were both adults and they both did the same crime together. So why does the daughter, who seems to be even more evil than the mom get a chance at parole? She will be in her 60's if she does get paroled but that isn't all that old. She should rot for life just like her mom.

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  3. I don't understand why the ME wouldn't have investigated further for a cause of death. The son was especially young and the timing of his death should have raised suspicion

    ReplyDelete