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Antifreeze murders: 2 suspects opt not to have prosecutors present evidence

August 06, 2013|by Linda Russell and Gene Hartley, KY3 News | news@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Two women from Springfield who are accused of poisoning three family members with antifreeze chose to waive their rights to preliminary hearings on Tuesday morning.  That means a judge sent the cases of Diane and Rachel Staudte to trial court without having to hear any testimony about the evidence against the women. 

The Staudtes are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Mark Staudte and Shaun Staudte in 2012, and are charged with first-degree assault for injuries to Sarah Staudte last spring.  Mark Staudte was the husband of Diane Staudte.  Shaun, Sarah and Rachel Staudte are (or were) children of Mark and Diane.

The crux of the evidence against Diane and Rachel is already public through probable cause statements against them.  Some additional evidence sometimes is revealed at preliminary hearings, and defense attorneys have opportunities to challenge some of that evidence at those hearings.  A defense attorney doesn't have to say why a client chooses to waive the right to a preliminary hearing.

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Investigators believe Mark, Shaun and Sarah were all poisoned with small amounts of antifreeze that were put in their drinks.  Mark, 61, died in April 2012 and Shaun, 26, died last September.  Mark’s death was attributed to a heart attack, and no autopsy was done because of his age and medical history.  Shaun’s death was attributed to prior medical issues, after an autopsy by the Greene County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Diane, 51, and Rachel, 23, were charged in late June after an investigation that started days earlier when Sarah, 24, was hospitalized.  Medical personnel told law enforcement investigators that they were surprised by how unconcerned Diane seemed to be about Sarah’s health, and mentioned that she would take a planned vacation trip, even if Sarah was still in the hospital.

In probable cause statements used as the basis of charges, police detectives said both Diane and Rachel Staudte admitted in interviews that they slipped small amounts of antifreeze into soda and Gatorade of their family members.  The statements said Diane said she was tired of being married to Mark; thought her son, who had autism, was a pest; and was mad at Sarah because she wouldn’t get a job after graduating from college, “and had student loans that had to be paid.”

In June, police investigators said they thought Sarah would survive but have long lasting effects of antifreeze poisoning.  The state Children’s Division took another daughter, who was 11 years old in June, into protective custody.

Diane and Rachel Staudte are in the Greene County jail with no bonds set.  They are due to make their first appearances before a circuit judge on Aug. 16.  If they're convicted of murder, they could face life (30-year) prison sentences.   Greene County prosecutors have not said whether they might seek death penalties.

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