SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- A Springfield mother and daughter are accused of using antifreeze to kill their family members. Diane Staudte and her daughter, Rachel, both sit in jail, charged with the murder of two of their immediate family members and the serious injury of a third. Now investigators and the community wonder how their secret remained so hidden.
Mark Staudte, 61, died on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. His son, Shaun, 26, died last Sept. 2. Both died at home and were ruled natural causes.
"In this case, there was simply nothing that stood out that would cause us to believe it was anything other than a natural death," said Springfield Police Lt. Tad Peters.
Herman Lohmeyer Funeral home says both Mark and Shaun were cremated.
Then, earlier this month, Sarah Staudte was hospitalized with near fatal PH levels. After an anonymous tip to police, Diane Staudte confessed to investigators that she poisoned her husband, son and daughter with antifreeze. Later, her daughter, Rachel, admitted to helping poison her father and siblings.
"You see things in this job that you never expect that you will see, and that's one, sitting there watching an interview and watching someone progressively come up with that information. You learn to expect things that you would never expect," said Peters.
Diane Staudte told police she mixed the poison in Gatorade and Coke.
"It's a sweet, oily-like substance. It's somewhat palatable in small doses. I suspect it could be masked in strong sweet drinks or foods in small amounts," said Mercy Health pharmacist Terry Barks.
The initial symptoms, Barks says, would be similar to alcohol intoxication, then progress to kidney and respiratory failure, and an increase in the body's PH levels, which can lead to seizures and coma. He says the victims could have been too confused to call for help, and even pinpointing the problem would be difficult.
"This is kind of one of those cases where you would have to be looking for zebras when you heard hoof beats, instead of the horse," said Barks.
Peters says he has seen antifreeze used in suicides, but not a homicide case. Sarah Staudte, 24, is still hospitalized, but is recovering and able to communicate now. Police are still waiting to get a statement from her. Barks says long term effects of the poisoning would be mostly neurological.
An 11-year-old daughter of Diane and Mark Staudte is in state protective custody.