SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Missouri family was slowly being killed off one by one. Two family members died in 2012 and 2013 and another one was hospitalized. What could be killing them?
The Staudte Family
Diane and Mark Staudte were high school sweethearts. The couple bought a house in Springfield to raise their four children.
Diane was the church organist at Redeemer Lutheran and Mark was the lead singer and guitarist of a local blues band called “Messing with Destiny.” Though being in a band is fun it can be hard to bring in a steady income on just performing so Mark would occasionally bartend.
However, with Diane’s nursing career, she became the real breadwinner of the household. And the couple faced challenges with raising their children.
Fourth-grader Briana had a learning disability, Shaun had autism, Sarah was a college grad still living at home with no job and a mountain of student debt.
Rachel, however, was a star student and could be considered the golden child in this family.
“She is a musician, she plays the flute, she loves math, she loves chemistry, she’s an artist, and she loves poetry,” said Ron Davis, a reporter based in Springfield.
Diane wrote multiple positive messages on her daughter Rachel’s Facebook congratulating her on recent accomplishments.
Davis says Rachel was by far Diane’s favorite.
On Diane’s Facebook page she rarely mentioned her daughter, Sarah, with the exception of a photo posted of her in a cap and gown. Sarah graduated from Missouri State University.
Tragedy would strike the Staudte family when Mark suddenly dies in April 2012.
Despite the death being sudden, since Mark didn’t lead a very healthy lifestyle his death was ruled to be of natural causes.
Diane received $20,000 due to Mark’s life insurance policy and moved her family to a new neighborhood and into a larger home.
Sudden death would strike the Staudte family once again. Shaun is dead at 26. Diane told police that Shaun had been experiencing flu-like symptoms — diarrhea, nausea, body aches, and headaches — for three weeks prior to his death.
Diane also stated that Shaun had a history of seizures. Police didn’t find anything too strange except for dried blood around Shaun’s mouth.
Just like his father’s death, Shuan was ruled to have died of natural causes. Shaun died just 147 days after his father.
In 2013, the Springfield Police Department would receive a tip from someone who claims to be close to the Staudte family.
“The tipster told us there had been two deaths in the family and now Sarah is in grave condition when no prior health problems. Diane also seemed almost void of emotion about her daughter’s condition,” said Detective Neal McAmis with the Springfield Police Department.
What’s even more concerning, Sarah’s doctor tells the detective they are unable to figure out what exactly is afflicting her.
“When I first reached out to the doctor who was treating Sarah they had told me they had run just about every test they could run. They did start to think poisoning could be a possibility “
Detective McAmis decides it’s time for Diane to answer a few questions.
“I contacted Diane and she agreed to come down to speak to me. And at that time we had no evidence. They had run tests at the hospital on Sarah and nothing was detected at that point. So, it started out as an informational interview.”
During the interview, Diane seemed extremely calm but Detective McAmis had to be careful throughout the interview.
“I had to be very careful in speaking with her because is this someone who has just been terribly unlucky that her family has had these terrible tragedies or is this something a lot more sinister,” said Detective McAmis. “It was a very fine line I had to walk during that interview.”
As the interview progressed things weren’t adding up. So, Detective McAmis turned up the heat.
“I began putting a little bit more pressure on her. Diane had a career in nursing and when she couldn’t really explain why this was going on. Some of her explanations didn’t make sense. So, I put a little pressure on her just to see where it would go. “
With the interview heating up cracks start to appear in Diane’s story.
“It was a real gradual chipping away at her story and eventually it started to unravel. And it seemed to just slip more and more and then she starts talking about antifreeze.”
Diane at first said Mark and Shaun were drinking antifreeze as a way to commit suicide. But she eventually confessed she was the one giving it to them without their knowledge.
What shocked the detective more than the act was the reason behind it.
“She just said that she hated Mark, her words were she hated his guts. And then she talked about Shaun as being a burden. I believe the words that he used was he is worst than a pest. And with Sarah, she said Sarah had student loans that needed to be paid and Sarah wasn’t working and she was going to get her out of the way.”
With Diane’s confession, she is immediately taken into custody.
But this case is far from over.
While Diane is taken into custody, police executed a search warrant at the Staudte’s resident.
“We had our crime scene team execute a search warrant at the Staudte’s resident and one of our team members found a diary.”Detective McAmis
The small purple diary belonged to Rachel and the contents inside were more than a little concerning for investigators.
“Rachel detailed out the upcoming deaths of her father and brother,” said Detective McAmis. “She wrote that she knew it was happening and that she was trying to come to terms with it.”
It was time for Rachel to answer a few questions.
“I went down to where Rachel was staying and she agreed to come down to the station to answer a few questions. It was a lot like Diane’s with it just being an informational interview. When I confronted her about the journal entries she explained it away of having these dreams and was just expressing herself through the journal.”
Rachel confesses to helping her mother take out their family one by one. She also explains why the two decided to on antifreeze poisoning.
“Both Rachel and her mother said they did a lot of research,” said Detective McAmis. “They looked into poisonous plants. They said they looked into other methods of poison and she said they eventually decided to go with antifreeze because they could get tasteless antifreeze.”
Both Detective McAmis and Davis believe Rachel downplayed her role in the murders.
“What was so stunning about it all is at the end she told me that after Sarah they were going to kill the youngest daughter as well.”Detective McAmis
“I really want to talk to Rachel. Someone who is that gifted and that centered at that young age, I mean that’s a really brilliant human being that could do a lot of good. Too bad she ended up killing two people. I would really like to get to know her motivation because I think she could have talked her mom out of it.”Ron Davis
Both Diane and Rachel Staudte pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in 2016. At the trial, Rachel apologized to her family for her part in killing her father and brother.
Sarah, who doctors say was the closest to death you could be, would survive and also spoke to her sister and mother at the trial.