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Pastor’s call to police after 2 church members die same way leads to conviction for double murder

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Unsplash/Ye Jinghan

Years after a Missouri pastor called police about two members of the same family dying in a short time span, a court convicted the wife and mother of the deceased of killing them by antifreeze poisoning. However, she now claims in a media interview she is innocent.

Diane Staudte was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in 2018. The conviction came years after Jeff Sippy, the former pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Springfield, Missouri, made an anonymous call to police about the death of Staudte’s husband and son, followed by the hospitalization of her daughter.

"I shared that I am a pastor and I have a family who has experienced two deaths in a short proximity of time and has another family member in ICU," Sippy said in Friday's episode of ABC's "20/20."

Diane Staudte
Screenshot: YouTube/ABC's "20/20"

"I've never had two family members die in the same type of situations ever. I believe these were circumstances that needed to be investigated," he added.

Staudte's husband, 61-year-old Mark Staudte, a musician, died on Easter Sunday in 2012. His death came two days after his bandmates noticed he was slurring his words and his skin appeared yellow, the media outlet said, adding that there was a ring of blood around his mouth at the time of his death.

Five months later, Staudte's son, Shaun, died after suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Then, in 2013, her eldest daughter, Sarah, was admitted to the ICU with a brain bleed and organ failure. She was taken to the hospital by her mother and her sister, Rachel. That’s when doctors suspected that poisoning could be the cause.

“There was nothing in me that believed that it was of a natural cause,” Sippy was quoted as saying. “I didn’t believe that he died of a stroke. A heart attack. Or in his sleep. I just didn’t. There’s nothing scientific. There’s nothing professional about my observation. But my first words were, ‘No way.’ He did not just die.”

After Springfield Police Department Detective Neal McAmis interrogated Diane Staudte and her daughter, Rachel, the duo admitted to mixing antifreeze into her children’s Coca-Cola and husband’s Gatorade, ABC News said.

Though she recovered from the poisoning, Sarah Staudte has sustained permanent damage with lifelong effects. She is now in assisted living.

Staudte, a nurse who was described as "an active member of her church and the breadwinner for her family of six," later told police she felt "trapped" in an unhappy life, she hated her husband, found her son to be "worse than a pest" and was upset that her daughter Sarah was "nosy" and didn't have a job.

She said she researched online how to kill someone with antifreeze, a product she believed would be hard for medical examiners to detect. 

Rachel Staudte told police her mother first brought up the idea and she went along with it. Diane and Rachel Staudte each pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in 2016. In 2018, Diane Staudte was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Rachel received two life terms with the possibility of parole after 42-and-a-half years.

However, Staudte is now maintaining her innocence, and recently told ABC News that “there’s more to that than what people know.”

“Mark was with some people that are very dangerous — people have disappeared,” she said. “I’m saying somebody probably came in and gave him something.”

She claimed her husband struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but that she was not the one to poison him.

But McAmis dismissed her claims, adding: “There is nothing whatsoever to show that anybody was involved in this case other than those mentioned already. Diane and Rachel ...  the ones that killed their family.”

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