Missouri Woman Recalls Moment She Suspected Her Mom Tried to Kill Her

Sarah Staudte nearly died after her mom poisoned her with anti-freeze.

ByABC News
April 15, 2016, 9:11 AM

— -- A Missouri woman who nearly died after her mother poisoned her with anti-freeze said she suspected that her mother was planning to kill her after reading her journal.

"She had this journal that she wrote ... her thoughts. She wrote the deaths of Shaun, my brother, and me. And that's what worried me ... I was shocked," Sarah Staudte told ABC's "20/20" in an exclusive interview.

Sarah's father Mark Staudte, 61, and her older brother Shaun, 26, both died just five months apart the year before in 2012. Medical examiners ruled Mark's death was due to "natural causes" and Shaun's death was due to "prior medical issues." Both bodies were cremated.

Sarah, now 26, told "20/20" that when she confronted her mother Diane about the journal entry predicting her death, her mother told her she wasn't going to die and to not read her journal again.

PHOTO: Sarah Staudte, who survived anti-freeze poisoning, talks to ABC News' Deborah Roberts.
Sarah Staudte, who survived anti-freeze poisoning, talks to ABC News' Deborah Roberts.

Sarah said she kept what she read a secret.

In June 2013, Sarah was brought to the emergency room at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, with flu-like symptoms, but doctors determined that her kidneys and brain were failing. After doing a number of tests, doctors initially could not figure what was wrong with her.

During Sarah's hospitalization, Springfield Police Det. Neal McAmis received an anonymous tip that Diane could be involved in Sarah's illness and could also be responsible for the deaths of her husband and son. Det. McAmis then went to the hospital where he said one of the doctors told him that Sarah was in both a mysterious and grave condition.

"[The doctor] said that he was suspicious that it was a possible poisoning case," Det. McAmis told 20/20. "At that point, I was told Sarah was pretty much given a zero percent chance of making it. It was not if Sarah is going to die, but when."

He also learned from a nurse that the mother Diane was behaving strangely, joking about her daughter's condition and talking about an upcoming vacation to Florida.

Det. McAmis called Diane into questioning where she eventually admitted on tape to poisoning Mark, Shaun and Sarah with anti-freeze.

Diane told the investigator that she wanted Sarah dead because her daughter had student loans that she needed to pay off and that she was having problems finding a job. Sarah, a French and History graduate of Missouri State University, wanted to pursue her dream of being a translator.

"I've been kind of putting pressure on [Sarah] to get out and get a job. Your college bills are coming due. I don't want to pay for them. After all, you get tired of doing everything for your kids and it's like you need to step up and do it," Diane said in her interrogation tape, obtained by "20/20."

Sarah's sister Rachel was also brought into questioning, where she eventually admitted to helping her mother kill her father and brother, as well as poisoning her older sister.

Miraculously Sarah survived the poisoning but suffered severe neurological damage. She had to relearn how to walk and talk, and continues to recover.

When Sarah found out the news from police that her mother and sister were responsible for her hospitalization and the murders of her dad and brother, she was both shocked and upset.

"I just [felt] like I want[ed] to slap both of them, and call them 'B' words," she said.

In January 2016, Diane pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges for Mark and Shaun's deaths and to assault charges for Sarah's poisoning. She took an Alford plea from Greene County prosecutor Dan Patterson, acknowledging that there was substantial evidence to convict her but not admitting wrongdoing. Diane was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Rachel, now 25, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May 2015 as part of a plea deal in exchange for testifying against her mother at her trial. She was sentenced in March 2016 to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

PHOTO: Rachel Staudte read this statement at her sentencing on March 1, 2016.
Rachel Staudte read this statement at her sentencing on March 1, 2016.
Courtesy of Clate Baker

During her sentencing, Rachel apologized to her older sister.

"I'm sorry I couldn't find the courage to stand up for what was right, to go for help, to protect you and our siblings," Rachel said. "Your suffering could have been prevented and I hate myself for not being there for you.... I want you to know that you are an inspiration to me."

Sarah faced both her mother and sister at their sentencings.

"I prefer to be survivor than a victim," she said.

Sarah said the hardest part of what has happened is that she misses her family, especially her father and brother. She said she believes that they protected her.

"[My father and brother are] like angels, watching over me. And every once and awhile, I have dreams that they visit me, from beyond the grave," she said.

She has embraced her spirituality and is a devout Christian. She spends a lot of time at her church and said that she wants to create an awareness group to help others who have also been poisoned.

But it's a hard journey. She is now living in an assisted care facility and has a state-appointed guardian.

Sarah told ABC News that while her mother and sister took away her livelihood and independence, they did not take away her desire to fulfill her future dreams. She still hopes of one day of being a French translator and walking the streets of Paris and Montreal.

Despite the hardships, pain and loss Sarah has had to endure, she maintains that she is a survivor and that she is no longer angry at her mother and sister.

"I forgive them for what they did because forgiveness is the right thing to do."