Courtney Gail Ettinger Tressler, Martin Wesley Ettinger And Greg Tressler
In North America, it is unlikely that many of us have to worry about starving to death, but it is a problem in many places on the globe. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where, unless a person is combating bulimia or anorexia nervosa, an individual can pretty much end the pangs of hunger with a quick trip to his or her fridge, or by popping down to the local supermarket.
Children are, of course, dependent upon the adults in their lives to provide the basic necessities of life and this includes food and water. Parents must supply a balanced diet, which means the food must have enough calories to sustain the child’s energy levels and, at the same time, have an equal amount of the necessary nutrients to aid in their growth and development. It is vital to strike a balance to ensure our older years are not spent combating some freaky problem caused by our childhood diets.
Starvation is not a common childhood event in our society – or at least it shouldn’t be. In fact, starving to death in one of the world’s wealthiest nations is not only paradoxical – it’s evil. It means that the caregiver has decided to rid the world of a vulnerable victim. The perpetrator is well aware of the intent of his or her actions. Starvation can take a long time to achieve the end result and there are obviously many chances to reverse the course of action, many opportunities to think better of what is being done.
Let’s take a slight journey back in time. Courtney Gail Hughey met and married Martin Wesley Ettinger. On October 31, 2005, the 21-year-old Courtney gave birth to Payton Wesley Ettinger making 30-year-old Martin a new father. Payton had the whole future open for him. He had the potential to grow up and be whatever he wanted to be and to do whatever he wanted to do. The little boy was healthy and happy – but not for long.
Infants are so much potential in a little chubby package that sometimes you can sit and just stare at them, wistfully thinking about what tomorrow can bring. Sometimes you can wonder when it was that you yourself lost the ability to look at the future with such hope and anticipation. Some people, however, just look at an infant and see a whiny messy inconvenience that needs a swift punch to shut them up.
That must be how Martin Wesley Ettinger felt whenever he looked at Payton. Perhaps Martin felt Payton was to blame for his own inadequacies – after all, Martin couldn’t possibly be the captain of his own misfortune. Each time Martin felt frustrated at life, Martin gave Payton a little of the payback he felt Payton Ettinger sorely deserved, usually in the form of a hard punch or two. And so, Payton Wesley Ettinger had a horrific first two months of life.
Records from the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Grand Traverse County Michigan reveal that Martin Ettinger abused his infant son – repeatedly and frequently. It turns out that poor little Payton’s first few weeks on this planet were spent as a punching bag for his allegedly stressed out and frustrated father. Since infants are not equipped with body armor, the eventual and inevitable result of brutal battering does not bode well for the child.
On November 15, 2005, Martin Ettinger was beating Payton, as usual, only this time the infant required a trip to the local hospital. Once there, the doctors discovered a badly abused baby boy who was unlikely to survive the night.
At the hospital, doctors found a fractured tibia that was not recent, numerous rib fractures in two to three stages of healing and multiple abnormalities with various ages including a small right-sided subdural-like hematoma in his brain.
Martin told Grand Traverse sheriff’s detectives that he “squeezed Payton when he became frustrated” and “accidentally dropped Payton Ettinger on his chest.” The doctors knew the injuries indicated ongoing abuse. On this occasion, Martin Ettinger beat Payton to the extent that Payton had sustained severe brain injuries, leaving Payton developmentally disabled, unable to talk, to walk or control most of his muscles.
For the rest of his life, Payton Wesley Ettinger was a special needs patient and would forever require substantial care thanks to Martin’s enduring brutality and “frustration” at life. More than that, Martin essentially enabled the future murder of Payton Ettinger. Thank you Dad.
Yes, Martin Wesley Ettinger is currently residing in one of Michigan State’s finest residential palaces for its less than respectable citizens – Marquette Branch Prison. Martin’s new residence is a result of his conviction for first degree child abuse, which he pleaded guilty to in Traverse County Court on April 28, 2006. As a result of his plea, Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg dropped a second count of child abuse in the first degree.
When it came time to sentence Martin, Judge Thomas G. Power gave the standard sentence of five to fifteen years. That’s right, Marty is eligible for parole on April 28, 2011. Never mind that he sentenced little Payton to a LIFE TIME of never again being able to speak, to walk, to talk, to care for himself.
In 2005, the law had came to Payton Ettinger’s rescue and the medical magicians saved his life, but they could not restore the potential Payton once had. And yet, there are parents who don’t care about appearances and what someone else may consider “normal” and “regular”, parents who love their children so much that they are willing to beg, borrow, barter – whatever is necessary – just so long as their child is alive and still here on earth.
Having seen this kind of love up close and personal, it is awe-inspiring. Nothing matters in these cases, nothing except life and the fact that their son or daughter is still alive and breathing. Everything else is just icing on a cake, right?
Too bad this kind of love is in rare supply with some people.
Courtney Gail Hughey Ettinger Tressler, Payton Ettinger’s mother, divorced Martin and moved on with her life. Apparently, the police did not feel that she deserved to be charged for failing to protect Payton from Martin so she escaped any sort of legal censure. No charges of failure to protect were made so Payton’s mom was free of the taint of inept parenting – at least legally speaking.
But babies, endowed with loving parents, need not fear an existence such as Payton’s. The mother in this case was not charged and it is the assumption of all that she was not aware of the abuse her husband meted out to the two-month old baby. Divorced from Martin, Courtney Gail Ettinger was soon back on the meat market, footloose and fancy free, looking for the next Mr. Right. She was, after all, a young woman. Along came Greg Tressler, and in January, 2007, she married Greg Tressler and the twosome hauled up stakes and moved to Indiana with little Payton in tow.
Now nestled in the small town of Greensburg, Indiana, Courtney, making like a fertile turtle, popped out two children that belonged to her and Greg.
New state, new husband, new family, right? Except for Payton. Payton was a reminder of Martin and the old life Courtney Gail Tressler had left behind in Michigan. And then there was the issue of how much time a baby like Payton required. And would require for the rest of his life.
Remember, the damage to Payton was not such that the little boy would die of a medical ailment. It wasn’t Payton’s health that had failed him; it was his father. And Courtney Gail Tressler had walked out of Michigan state with her maternal image unsullied by Martin’s actions.
A mother’s love can move mountains and can weather any of life’s storms. Perhaps a mother’s hate can be just as phenomenal a force.
At what point did Courtney Gail Tressler decide she couldn’t stand Payton? Was it after the birth of her first child with Greg Tressler? When the baby grew past the age Payton was after Martin damaged him? When the baby began to do things on his own? Without needing her time and energy?
Or was it when Courtney Gail Tressler’s second child with Greg was born? Or was it when the two children, a boy and a girl, so perfect and complete, began to grow and develop and she could brag about their achievements? When Caden and Aubrey said their first words? Took their first steps? When they were able to be toilet trained? When their faces lit up with love and recognition for her and her husband?
When did she start to compare the children she had with Greg to the one she had with Martin? Is it fair? Hell no, but likely? Hell, yes.
Yeah, Courtney Gail Tressler must have come to view Payton as Martin’s child, not hers. After all, her son Payton had been born whole, complete, not some brain damaged albatross to be hung around her neck. No, the Payton she had to lug along into her new life was Martin’s. In fact, she couldn’t even stand to use the name she had given him at birth. He wasn’t Payton to her and Greg. They referred to him as “Puka” – don’t you think that’s an endearing nickname? “Puke – Ah”. Uh-huh. I think I can see how Payton got to be Puka.
Perhaps that is how it was – every day, she grew to hate the thing that used to be her son Payton and came to blame him more and more for all the bad things she had to deal with. Tired? Well it’s Payton’s fault. If she didn’t have to do EVERYTHING for him, then she’d have time to do the things she liked to do, more time to spend with her real kids. Her children with Greg, they were joys. They could do things for themselves; they drew pictures and played and she could talk to other parents about them – but not Payton.
And so fewer and fewer people even knew she had Martin’s mistake in a back bedroom. And day after day, Courtney Gail Tressler fed Payton less and less food and rationalized her actions away. Payton wasn’t really there anyway. It wasn’t Payton in the crib – it was Puka. He couldn’t think like her other children, Caden and Aubrey. He wasn’t really human right? The brain damage meant he was less than normal and therefore an embarrassment for Courtney.
If only she hadn’t had to keep Payton, then no one would ever know about her abysmal failure as a mother the first time around. If Payton would just die, then everything would be fine. Courtney had the perfect husband and the perfect children, but she couldn’t enjoy it. Why? Because of the existence of Payton. All the time and energy she had to waste on Martin’s mistake. It wasn’t fair, you know? After all, she’s a young woman and her whole life is ruined by Martin’s mistake.
Martin? He got off easy really. Once he’s out of jail, he’ll be able to go on with his life, but Courtney? Well, Courtney is stuck forever with Payton. Remember Payton cannot do anything for himself. He is developmentally disabled and has severe restrictions on what he can do with his muscles. Payton was sentenced to a crib by his father.
Let’s ponder an imponderable: How long does it take someone to starve to death?
Odds are it will take a long time if someone is doing it piece meal (no pun intended) and rationalizing along the way. That must be how Courtney Gail Tressler did it. How else can you explain Payton’s descent into hell on earth? The last time he was seen by a doctor was in 2006. Payton had made it to his first birthday and he weighed in at 17 pounds, 3 ounces. All systems normal and all systems go.
Payton would never again see a doctor in his short life time. By the time another medical professional saw Payton, it was the medical examiner at his autopsy. He weighed 12 pounds and he was 4 years 7 months old. Under Courtney’s tender loving care, Payton LOST five pounds.
How long does it take to starve to death? Too long really. It is a slow and painful death. Payton would have been struck by the hunger pains first and would have made noises in the beginning, so she must have been careful to give him just a little less each day.
Payton’s system would shut down non-essential things like growth in order to conserve what fat he did have on his body and then it would have shrunk his stomach. Still, his body would need to feed on something and it would – his body would start to eat itself. Fat would have gone pretty quick.
Next to go would be muscle tissue, which would be broken down and consumed by the body in an effort to sustain life. Forget about any growth or development taking place – Payton’s body would be in a fight for survival. But hey, it’s not like he was real, right? He’s not a real kid because his father made sure of that.
In Courtney’s eyes, Payton was a reminder of her first failure at life. She failed to protect Payton and her price was to be stuck caring for what she viewed as a lump of flesh that would take and take and take but never give. Not like her two normal children that she had with Greg. They would walk and talk and she’d be able to have time for herself and Greg, like other couples, instead of always being stuck looking after Martin’s son.
And so it went. Day after day, week in and week out. Payton never changed. He was just as needy now as he was when he was released from the hospital in 2006.
Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum. Perhaps it was unspoken, Courtney’s dissatisfaction with being stuck with Payton. Perhaps Greg and Courtney Tressler talked about it. Who knows? But it is a given that no one in their home could have escaped noticing that little Payton was getting … smaller.
At 3:23 p.m., on May 17, 2010, a 911 call was received by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department, and a Decatur County EMS arrived at 307 E. Meadow Drive with remarkable speed. At 3:25 p.m., the EMS tech made a call for the coroner. Coroner Doug Banks took the body into custody.
An extensive autopsy was done on the corpse of little Payton Wesley Ettinger and detailed test were performed. The tests were not completed until August 13, 2010. The end result was the conclusion that the child had died due to malnutrition and dehydration. There was no significant amount of food in the child’s intestines or stomach and the
“no significant amount of food in the child’s intestines or stomach…the physical appearance of the child’s body clearly showed profound malnutrition and no body fat on the child’s body… (the) skin on his face was drawn tightly against his skull and face bones with obvious emaciation.”
When the police asked Courtney Gail Tressler about Payton, she said that she noticed Payton had been losing weight lately (as if weight loss is something one would suddenly notice) and that she planned to take him to see a doctor but financial concerns meant she had to postpone taking him. Um, yeah.
Indeed, two days after Payton’s death, Courtney Gail Tressler managed to squeeze enough cash together to go to the hospital to get her own health checked out – twice, but after all, it was her health we’re talking about, and that is certainly more important. Must have seemed like a fortunate stroke of luck that she didn’t need the money to check on Payton after all, right?
Courtney also said she had applied for Medicare – twice, but she had been turned down both times. Except that was a lie, too. The police were able to check on this claim too and it was another bogus non-event. You’d almost think Courtney was the one with brain damage, wouldn’t you?
Courtney Gail Tressler tried to tell the officers that she noticed on May 15th that Payton was losing weight and that she was planning to take him to the doctor’s office for a check-up. In fact, she had planned to take him on the day he died, May 17th, but she couldn’t afford it – financial difficulties, you know?
Makes you wonder why Greg’s daddy, president of the local bank, couldn’t have loaned his son and daughter-in-law a spot of cash so the baby could see a doctor. And then there’s the question of Payton’s income. As a severely disabled child, is it conceivable that Courtney was not receiving a disability check for Payton? If she wasn’t, then one has to wonder why. If Courtney WAS receiving a monthly disability check for Payton, a more likely scenario, then one has to wonder where the money was being spent if not on Payton’s care.
Nah, none of this apparently came up. Nope, Courtney Gail Tressler claimed that she was in a real financial bind. And now, two days later, Payton’s dead. If only she had had the funding for that visit.
And, looking like some hick from meth-central, Greg Tressler gave a front-porch TV interview in which he claims that his wife is innocent, that it’s all some misunderstanding, and last but not least, the criminal charges are the result of someone in a small town trying to make a name for themselves.
Not that you should doubt that there are influential people throwing their weight around because it is pretty evident that the Tresslers have clout.The prosecutor, the coroner, the chief of police have all declined further comment outside of what has been revealed in the probable cause affidavit.
Questioned as to how and why Greg Tressler has not been charged, prosecutor Bill Smith would only state that Greg wasn’t Payton’s legal guardian and that the law is “complicated.” Huh? Yes, the law is complicated, but that’s why people ask lawyers to clear things up, OK? And the chief of police? Even better. Greensburg Police Chief Brian Heaton stated, “I have been instructed not to comment further.” So yes, there are some power players affecting this whole case.
Now some people have rightly questioned Courtney’s poverty claims. The existence of a monthly disability check notwithstanding, a glance at their decent home at 307 E. Meadow Drive appears to be located in a rather fine neighborhood and indicative of a upper-middle class income level. They didn’t appear to be driving a jalopy either as they have a late model SUV in the driveway.
Supporters have been busy trying to sway public opinion and confuse the issue, but the Tresslers have not done themselves any favors with their inaccuracies when responding to police inquiries.
On May 17th, 2010, Payton died. On May 18th, 2010, Courtney and Greg Tressler were interviewed by the police. Courtney claimed to have fed Payton and put him to bed at 11:00 a.m. the morning of May 17th. Lie number one – the coroner could find no food or water in evidence in Payton’s stomach or intestines.
Courtney claimed to have taken Payton to several doctors over the years, as in two visits to a Michigan’s children’s clinic in 2009. Lie number two – Payton had last seen a physician in November 2006. Records at the children’s clinic disclosed no visits for little Payton. And records were searched in both Indiana and Michigan.
The financial woes were such that, despite being ultra-concerned about Payton’s “sudden” weight loss, she could not afford to take him to the local ER and have him checked out. The police asked if she had availed herself of the Medicaid option. Courtney claimed she had applied for Medicaid twice, and had been refused twice. Lie number three – Courtney Gail Hughey Ettinger Tressler had never applied for Medicaid once, let alone twice.
And Courtney Gail Tressler’s frantic concern on May 15th regarding the sudden weight loss for Payton and how she was thinking about taking him to the hospital? Well that’s lie number four – on this date, Courtney was busy posting on Facebook that she was having friends over for a back-yard grill and barbecue and that her “babies are getting so big so quick.” The comment about her babies were in reference to her other children, the healthy ones, the children she was proud of, the ones she had with Greg.
Facebook references to Payton had been infrequent prior to his death and totally absent afterward. The brief mentions of the child were always made to “Puka” and so it isn’t surprising that most of their friends and acquaintances were unaware of his existence. Caden and Aubrey they knew about. That was Courtney’s million dollar family after all, a boy and a girl, normal children, Greg’s children.
Greg’s Facebook postings were a study in avoidance. Still, six hours after Payton’s body was removed from the home, Greg was posting jokes and light-hearted comments on various Facebook pages belonging to friends as well as playing games.
As time passed from Payton’s death in May, Courtney Gail Tressler’s entries began to take a rather dark turn when she posted the following comment:“Swords of wisdom to those who need them; don’t mess with my family you will lose, don’t think you are sneeky (sic) when you clearly aren’t, quit being a s— disturber that’s how you run everyone off and end up with no one just wait it will happen.”
It is anyone’s guess as to whom this epistle was directed, but it’s possibly family as it hints at the person being left alone after running “everyone off and end up with no one.”
Perhaps not everyone was satisfied with the explanations the Tresslers were offering in regards to Payton’s exit from this earthly plane. And then there are the things that Courtney has been busy doing in order to “trying to reclaim my life” as she stated on her Facebook page, odd methods for coping with the tragic loss of Payton’s life, especially when viewed in the financial light we are to believe the Tresslers were/are in: the two of them consoled themselves with skydiving and rock climbing adventures, certainly not cheap distractions to indulge in.
Did their finances get better? Courtney Gail Tressler was arrested on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, and held on $15,000 bond, which she promptly paid and was released. The police were not amused. One has to wonder as to Courtney’s cash flow since she was able to bail herself out so quickly after being arrested. True enough, the bail, at $15,000, was a pitiful small amount, but this is the woman who didn’t have a spare cent to take her child to the doctor’s for a health issue she was concerned about, right?
The death has resulted in Courtney Gail Tressler being charged with neglect of a dependent and reckless homicide. To be honest, starving a child to death reeks of premeditation and it is inconceivable that you don’t know what you are doing. To starve to death is one of the slowest and most agonizing deaths imaginable.
Complete starvation in adults leads to death within 8 to 12 weeks. In the final stages of starvation, adult humans experience a variety of neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including hallucinations and convulsions, as well as severe muscle pain and disturbances in heart rhythm.
A child being slowly starved to death is first marked by growth retardation. Swelling of the legs is next, due to a drop in the protein content of the blood. Loss of resistance to infection follows next, along with poor wound healing. There is also progressive weakness and difficulty swallowing, which may lead to inhaling food.
At the same time, the signs of specific nutrient deficiencies may appear. Since the body will combat malnutrition by breaking down its own fat and eventually its own tissue, a whole host of symptoms can appear. The body’s structure, as well as its functions, are affected.
While starving to death, the body will lose 4-5% of its total weight per day. It can be a long and painful process if water and minimal amounts are provided. Early on, hunger and the loss of weight and muscle will be noticed. The subcutaneous fat decreases and the skin becomes thinner and drier as it stretches over the prominent bones.
Vital organs like the heart and lungs begin to shrink and slowly cease to function. The gallbladder fills with stones as the entire system winds down. Body temperature drops and the victim becomes extremely sensitive to cold. Fluid under the skin will swell the tissue. Anemia sets in.
Muscle mass diminishes and weakness consumes the body. Irritability and inability to concentrate affects the victim. The immunity system breaks down. Due to a lack of digestive acid production, the victim suffers a decreased ability to digest whatever food they do receive.
Towards the end, little Payton would have ceased defecation and drinking. His body would have had little or no strength at all. It is likely that he would no longer feel hunger pains at all. He would have minded the cold, but it isn’t likely he had the strength to cry much. His heart would have been slowing down a little bit more as each day passed.
Usually, if caught in time, adults who have suffered from starvation diets can be returned to normal function and physical health. Unfortunately, children are not so fortunate. Due to the fact that they are in a growth state and need adequate food and water to allow the growth to occur and sustain itself, starvation episodes can result in permanent mental retardation, growth defects, or both. If the episodes are extreme enough or of sufficient duration, then death will more likely be the result for the child rather than the adult.
Looking rested and well-fed, Courtney Gail Tressler and her husband, Greg Tressler, showed up on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, as Courtney made her first appearance at the Decatur County Circuit Court on charges of neglect of a dependent (Class A felony) and reckless homicide (Class C felony). Judge John Westhafer read the charges and noted that the penalty for a conviction of a Class A felony is between 20 and 50 years whereas a conviction for a Class C felony is between 2 to 8 years.
The judge asked if she had a lawyer and Courtney said she did not – she couldn’t afford one. Courtney Gail Tressler told the officials that she’s practically destitute. She has no lawyer as she ain’t got a penny, Courtney said with a wave of freshly manicured nails whilst garbed in a nappy little black business suit.
Courtney Gail Tressler claimed poverty – or near enough. No savings, no job, no income, no property, and, in response to the prosecutor’s question, no public assistance. The Tresslers lived solely on Greg’s employment paycheck alone from C & S Tressler Farms. As a result, Judge Westhafer had a discussion with the public defenders on hand for another case, and he appointed the lawyers of Brown and Johnson of Shelbyville to represent Courtney. The trial date is scheduled for January 18, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
The most that Courtney Gail Hughey Ettinger Tressler can receive for methodically starving her disabled four year old son to death is 50 years, and still it doesn’t seem enough.
While those who comment in the public forums about Payton being in a better place, I can’t shake the image of the poor little boy slowly starving to death under the care of his mother after sustaining a life of disability and pain from his father. It is unlikely a young mother of two will be held to the standard of justice because that isn’t how things work.
On top of this outrage is the fact that Martin Ettinger will be applying for parole in a few months for release on April 28, 2011.
With parents like Martin Ettinger and Courtney Ettinger Tressler, what chance did poor little Payton Wesley Ettinger ever have?
Editor’s Notes: Courtney Gail Tressler hasn’t been above making veiled threats to anyone who is cooperating with law enforcement. This is also from her FaceBook page, which, BTW, is now defunct:
“(W)ords of wisdom to those who need them; don’t mess with my family you will lose, don’t think you are sneeky (sic) when you clearly aren’t, quit being a s— disturber that’s how you run everyone off and end up with no one just wait it will happen.”
“Don’t mess with my family.” Oooh, it gives me goosebumps.
But the fact that Greg Tressler hasn’t been charged with so much as a misdemeanor leaves me with a very, very bad taste in my mouth.
Think about all the cases have covered here at PYSIH involving babies and young children who were intentionally starved to death, can you think of one case, in a household where mother and father figure were present, where both parental figures were not charged.
Nope, neither can I.
Which Of These Fine People Belongs In Hell: Courtney Gail Ettinger Tressler, Martin Wesley Ettinger Or Greg Tressler?
- Send them all to Hell! (92%, 428 Votes)
- Only Courtney Tressler and Marty Ettinger do (4%, 18 Votes)
- No one goes to Hell - it was all just a big misunderstanding (2%, 11 Votes)
- Only Courtney and Greg Tressler do (1%, 4 Votes)
- Only Courtney Gail Ettinger Tressler does (1%, 3 Votes)
- Only Greg Tressler and Marty Ettinger do (0%, 2 Votes)
- Only Martin Wesley Ettinger does (0%, 1 Votes)
- Only Greg Tressler does (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 467
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