Beth Stayer

Beth Stayer

5-year-old Says He Saw Dad Fatally Beat Mom, Court Papers Say

June 20, 2009 by Robert Annis | Star staff

5-year-old witnessed attack by his father, according to court papers

A 5-year-old allegedly witnessed his father beat his mother so severely in her Whitestown home that she died the next day, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say Michael Stayer, 32, beat his ex-wife, Beth Stayer, 34, with a hammer and a tire iron June 11. He has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty.

Emergency medical workers found Beth Stayer nearly lifeless in her 2-year-old daughter’s room and immediately transferred the woman to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. She died the next day from her injuries.

Beth and Michael Stayer had been divorced less than two months.

The couple’s 5-year-old son witnessed the attack, according to the probable cause affidavit. The boy heard a commotion and screaming coming from his 2-year-old sister’s room and went upstairs, Jennifer Essex said in the affidavit. Essex is with the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Essex said the boy described a bloody scene, stating that “dad had hit mommy” and his father had used a hammer and “a killer,” which police believe was a tire iron found in Michael Stayer’s Jeep. Asked if his parents had been violent with one another before, the boy said he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Dr. Marla Souder of Community Psychological Consultants, Indianapolis, is not involved in the case but said it’s beneficial for the boy’s mental health that he can communicate about it on his own terms.

He can be expected to have a hard time processing and sorting out what he witnessed, and he likely will go through multiple stages of grief as he mourns the loss of his mother and separation from his father, Souder said. That could develop into post-traumatic stress, she explained.

At 2, the Stayers’ daughter is unlikely to remember much about this incident, but she will live it through her brother’s experience, and that will have a lifelong effect, Souder said.

After police got to the scene, they said, Stayer’s brother, David Stayer, arrived and wanted to leave with the children and his brother’s vehicle, which potentially had evidence inside. Police are searching Michael Stayer’s cell phone records to see if he called or texted instructions to his brother.

Michael Stayer was arrested soon after the attack and is being held in the Boone County Jail without bond.

In addition to the murder charge, he faces felony counts of aggravated battery, battery resulting in serious bodily injury and domestic battery. He’s scheduled to go on trial Oct. 19 in Boone County. If convicted on all four counts, he could face up to 96 years in prison.

The two children are staying with a foster family.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday, where Boone Circuit Judge Steve David could decide if the children will remain with the foster family or be released to family members.


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