Name: Shaun Staudte.
Died: September 2, 2012.
Age at death: 26.
Cause of death: Homicide (Poisoned with antifreeze).
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA.
Shaun was the oldest boy in his family. He had three sisters. He and his youngest sister both had special needs–he had autism; she had learning disabilities.
Shaun’s mother hatched a plan to kill three of her family members. She hated her husband, Mark; Shaun, she said, was “worse than a pest”, and Shaun’s sister Sarah didn’t have a job and owed college loans. She talked her daughter into helping her with the plan, and the two worked together to poison their family.
Mark died first; he was poisoned with antifreeze in his drink, but police did not detect foul play, since his wife told them that Mark had been sick. Shaun died only five months after that, another victim of antifreeze poisoning; again, his mother told police that he had been sick, and the death was declared natural. Shaun’s sister, Sarah, got sick, too, and had to be hospitalized–she recovered, but with physical and neurological damage.
During Sarah’s illness, the family’s pastor called police and told them to investigate the possibility of murder; and doctors treating Sarah were beginning to worry about poisoning. After police tested samples from Shaun’s autopsy and found antifreeze, Shaun’s mother and sister were arrested, and eventually admitted that they had poisoned all three people and planned to poison nine-year-old Briana.
Shaun’s sister was sentenced to 42 years to life; his mother is serving life without parole. Briana’s name was changed, and she is living with a foster family.
Sarah, who now lives in an assisted living facility, says she forgives her mother. She plans to work to raise awareness of ethylene glycol poisoning. Ethylene glycol, the antifreeze ingredient used in the murders of Sarah’s father and brother, is a sweet-tasting substance that causes initial symptoms similar to alcohol poisoning, proceeding to vomiting, seizures, and eventually kidney failure and brain damage.
Accidental ethylene glycol poisoning can be prevented by proper labeling and safe storage of antifreeze. Bitter-tasting, less toxic alternatives to ethylene glycol are being used in some products being sold as antifreeze; other products have bitterants added. Poisoning can be treated with antidotes and dialysis; the earlier the treatment, the better the prognosis. If poisoning is suspected, call poison control or emergency services immediately.
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