On the surface, Patty and David Stallings appeared to be a regular working-class couple. They had met in 1986. At that time, Patty worked at a 7-Eleven in St. Louis. David, a plate engraver, was a regular customer at the store. They started dating and got married two years later. And in April 1989, Patty gave birth to their son, Ryan.
The police, however, came to believe that the couple were anything but normal, loving parents. They interrogated them for days, demanding to know if Patty was jealous of the baby. And then, taking David aside, they implied that his wife was a liar. In fact, they strongly suspected that Patty had deliberately poisoned her baby with antifreeze.
Indeed, they believed that Patty’s behavior was consistent with a rare psychiatric disorder known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Sufferers of the condition typically induce or make up symptoms of illness in someone they care for, usually a child or an elderly person. Their motive is generally to gain the attention and sympathy of others, especially medical professionals.