ST. LOUIS – The TV series “Unsolved Mysteries” helped solve a case involving an infant in St. Louis.
In 1989, a newborn was rushed to the hospital for a life-threatening illness. Ryan Stallings was suffering from chronic gastric distress.
After some routine tests at the hospital, Ryan would recover, but the diagnosis shocked doctors. Ryan had been poisoned.
His mother, Patty Stallings, became the main suspect. The police asked her questions about Ryan and how he was as a baby. They also asked questions about Patty’s husband, David Stallings. Patty said their home life was normal and that Ryan was a great baby. She also said she was shocked that she was a suspect.
Baby Ryan’s condition did improve, and after a 12-day stay, he was released from the hospital into the custody of Child Protective Services.
The parents and baby Ryan had limited contact and limited visitation rights. According to Patty, they were allowed only a one-hour visit each week on Thursdays.
During the sixth visit, Patty was left alone with Ryan. Three days later, he violently vomited. He was rushed to the hospital, and doctors said Ryan had been poisoned.
Patty was put under arrest. While Patty was in jail, her son was dying. On Sept. 7, 1989, Ryan died. He was not yet six months old.
Patty was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail. She was not allowed to attend Ryan’s funeral.
A few weeks later, Patty discovered she was pregnant again with her second child.
Six months later, David Stallings Jr. was born. Even though David Sr. was not a suspect, he was not allowed to take his child home. The baby was placed in foster care.
While in foster care at two weeks old, David Jr. showed the same symptoms his older brother had shown. This time, the diagnosis was different. David Jr. had a rare genetic disorder – Methymalamic Acidemia (MMA). This disorder causes the body to produce chemical byproducts that are like the chemicals found in antifreeze.
Patty was released from jail after prosecutors evaluated the medical evidence, but she was still not allowed to see her son, David Jr.
Local officials still thought Patty murdered her first son. Patty went to trial for the murder of Ryan. Without the medical testimony, the case against Patty seemed airtight. The prosecution still stated that Patty had poisoned her first son.
Patty’s husband stood by his wife’s side and defended her. He said he saw the bottle Patty fed Ryan with on Aug. 31, 1989, the day of the visit. David said there was nothing wrong with it.
Regardless, the jury sided with the prosecution. On March 4, 1991, Patty was sentenced to life without parole.
Each visit with David Jr. was limited to one hour, and David Sr. was allowed to see him once a week.
Shortly after the episode aired on May 8, 1991, doctors from all over the country called to say they were familiar with MMA.
A St. Louis University professor took a second look at Ryan’s blood tests. He discovered that Ryan also had MMA, resulting in Patricia’s exoneration in 1991. The Stallings were able to come home and take David Jr. with them.