Springfield, MO – Diane Staudte, 51, and her daughter, 22-year-old Rachel Staudte, were both charged Friday with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault, and one count of armed criminal action.
Diane initially told law enforcement that her husband, Mark Staudte, 61, hadn’t been feeling well and suffered from seizures before his April 2012 death. Soon after their son, Shawn Staudte, 26, became sick with flu-like symptoms. He died in September.
The medical examiner initially ruled the husband’s death as a result of natural causes and the son’s from a prior medical issue.
However, an anonymous tip led authorities to re-examine the deaths. The tip corresponded with the recent hospitalization of Diane’s daughter, 24-year-old Sarah Staudte.
Investigators stated a nurse treating Sarah told them that although the young woman’s condition was potentially fatal, Diane visited only a couple times and didn’t stay long. The nurse described Diane actions as odd and inappropriate, as she joked and laughed with hospital personnel during her visits, according to the Huffington Post. The nurse also told detectives that Diane told her that she planned to go on an upcoming vacation to Florida regardless of her daughter’s medical status.
A doctor also told authorities that Sarah’s condition was “very suspicious” and said he suspected the young woman had been poisoned.
Under questioning, Diane admitted to poisoning her family – putting antifreeze in their soda and Gatorade. According to the probable cause statement, Diane killed her husband because she “hated him,” her son because he was “worse than a pest,” and wanted to kill her daughter, Sarah, because the young woman “would not get a job and had student loans that had to be paid.”
It emerged that Rachel, Diane’s other daughter, participated in the planning, research, and commission of the crimes against their family members.
Both women have been jailed without bond.
Ethylene glycol poisoning is caused by ingesting ethylene glycol, the primary ingredient in both automotive antifreeze and hydraulic brake fluid. It is a toxic, colorless, and odorless, and has a sweet taste – making it difficult to detect when added to foods and beverages with the intent of poisoning.
The three main systems affected by ethylene glycol poisoning are the central nervous system, metabolic processes, and the kidneys. Following ingestion the symptoms of poisoning follow a three step progression starting with intoxication and vomiting, before causing metabolic acidosis, cardiovascular dysfunction, and finally oliguric or anuric acute kidney failure and death.
The cytotoxic effects of ethylene glycol occurs 24 to 72 hours post ingestion. The major metabolites causing toxicity are glycolic acid and oxalic acid. Glycolic acid metabolizes into glyoxylic acid and oxalic acid, which binds with calcium to form calcium oxalate crystals. These deposits can accumulate in the areas of the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs – damaging these delicate but essential organ systems.
Tell-tale calcium oxalate crystallization can be identified during an autopsy.
Otherwise, medically diagnosing antifreeze poisoning is done by measuring ethylene glycol in the blood or presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the urine.
If diagnosed early enough, an antidote can be administered. Ethanol or fomepizole work by blocking the enzyme responsible for metabolizing ethylene glycol, and therefore halt the progression of poisoning. Hemodialysis is also used to help remove metabolites from the blood.
With medical intervention, the prognosis is generally good and most patients can make a full recovery. A bitterant, denatonium benzoate, is typically added to many antifreeze products to discourage accidental or deliberate ingestion – as children and animals can consume large quantities because of the otherwise enticing sweetness.
[Feature image via Shutterstock]