In July 1989, five-month-old Ryan Stallings spent two weeks in a hospital after suffering abdominal pains. Ryan was subsequently placed in a foster home when police suspected that he ingested antifreeze while in the care of his mother, twenty-four-year-old Patricia Stallings. Police became suspicious of Patricia because Ryan could not walk and thus was unlikely to ingest antifreeze accidentally. Patricia was allowed to visit Ryan once every week while he remained in foster care under the supervision of the Missouri Division of Family Services. Shortly after her visit on August 31, 1989, Ryan was readmitted to the hospital with symptoms similar to those prompting his hospitalization in July. Hospital personnel again suspected that Ryan had antifreeze in his blood. Consequently, the police charged Patricia Stallings, five months pregnant with her third child, with first-degree assault for feeding antifreeze to her son. The charges were upgraded to first-degree murder when Ryan died after several days of suffering in the hospital. An autopsy revealed that Ryan had traces of ethylene glycol, an antifreeze ingredient, in his body. Consequently, prosecutors sought the death penalty. Patricia Stallings was described as a "very loving mother" who lived to take care of her baby. In fact, she may be considered a typical mother of a child suffering from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Michael T. Flannery,
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Broadening the Scope of Child Abuse,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol28/iss5/2