Case Update: Murder Charges Dropped for Zachary Sabin’s Stepmother; Mother and Stepfather Give Heartbreaking Statements to Media

Zachary Sabin
Zachary Sabin.
(KKTV 11)

Somehow, I missed this update from July in the story of Zachary Sabin, the 11-year-old Colorado boy who died on March 11, 2020 from forced water intoxication. Zachary was discovered dead in his bed that morning, covered in bruises and wearing a urine-soaked diaper.

According to police, Ryan and Tara forced Zachary to drink four 24-ounce bottles of water over a four-hour period. He subsequently began vomiting, complained of pain in his legs, and became nonverbal and drowsy. Ryan reportedly carried him to bed, where he later died. 

Zachary has been described as “a very gentle soul.”

Zachary’s father, US Army Sergeant 1st Class Ryan Sabin, and stepmother, Tara Sabin, were arrested in June. Each was hit with a charge of first degree murder; child abuse resulting in death; and six counts of misdemeanor child abuse pertaining to Zachary and five other children in the household. 

Well, the week after the arrests, Tara’s murder charges were dropped, and that fact somehow escaped my notice, so I apologize for not updating sooner. 

Tara still faces the remainder of her charges. All of Ryan’s charges, including first degree murder, still stand. Both Ryan and Tara are scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 1:30 PM on Friday, October 16 on their charges relating to Zachary’s death. 

Zachary’s mother, Angela Tuetken, and her husband, Matthew Tuetken, read heartbreaking statements soon after Ryan and Tara were arrested. You can watch the video below, but trust me; have tissues handy. I’m up to my eyeballs in stories like this every day, but hearing Angela and Matthew describe who Zachary was and how much they’ve lost hit me like a punch to the stomach, and I was sobbing aloud by the end of it.

For those unable to watch the video, I made bullet-point notes during Angela’s statement.

  • Zachary was a bright child who had a great personality filled with humor; he was always trying to make other people smile and laugh.
  • He was a gentle soul.
  • Whenever Angela was sad, Zachary would always hug her to make her smile.
  • He could light up a room with his smile, and he was also very proud of his ability to clear a room with his “Cheerio farts.” 
  • He was a cuddle-bug and a true mama’s boy.
  • He had the kindest heart and always made sure to keep his brothers safe.
  • Unlike his brothers, who would just complain about chores but not do them, Zachary would actually do his chores (and complain while doing them).
  • He was looking forward to starting 6th grade.
  • Zachary loved playing soccer and expressing himself through music and dance. He sang in the choir.
  • Zachary loved reading and video games, in that order. He would often stay up late at night, reading under the covers with a flashlight. 
  • He was very creative and loved playing Minecraft, building elaborate worlds.
  • Zachary was always up for an outdoor adventure. He loved their yearly camping trips, fishing, and splashing around in the creek.
  • He loved horseback riding; animals loved him, and he loved all living things. He aspired to be a veterinarian or zoologist.
  • Zachary and Angela had planned to take a special trip to Paris after he graduated from high school.
  • Zachary loved baking, especially brownies; he had a special, delicious recipe for them.
  • His favorite foods were chicken nuggets, bananas, and salmon; he loved root beer; and his favorite color was green.
  • Zachary wanted to move to California to be close to the beach.
  • He enjoyed all living creatures, nature hikes, and collecting leaves, rocks, and acorns, which made doing his laundry interesting, because she never knew what she would find in his pockets.
  • “I will never be able to cuddle my Zach-aroni ever again. I will miss my Zach Attack’s sweet nature. I will never be able to hear his contagious laugh. This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure in my life. No parent should ever have to bury their child.”
  • Angela wants us to remember Zachary for who he was, not how he died.
Matthew and Angela Tuetken. (KRDO)

Zachary’s stepfather, Matthew, also read a statement about the boy he called “our son.”

  • Losing a child is pain we never prepare for.
  • The love that Zachary taught them is what keeps their anger and outrage at bay.
  • If Zachary could be here today and express his feelings, his message would be one of love. He was not a child filled with anger, but hope and a softness that only a few children truly express.
  • Zachary had big dreams and a love for animals that would most likely have followed him into adulthood. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his resolve never wavered: he wanted to be a marine biologist, a zoologist, or a veterinarian.
  • He was an affectionate kid and made sure to kiss his mom goodbye every day before school.
  • Zachary was an excellent student with a love for knowledge.
  • He always had a book in his hands. Matthew described going into Zachary’s room many weeks after he passed and finding a book, tucked under his pillow, open to the last page he read.
  • Matthew’s message was not to let Zachary’s death be in vain and not to let his story fill you with anger or hatred. Instead, he said, take a moment to hug your kids and keep them close to you. If you are a struggling parent, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Their hearts and prayers go out to the Sabins’ other children, who are also dealing with uncertainties and the loss of their brother.

Click here for my ongoing coverage of Zachary’s story.

Sources: KKTV 11, KRDO


    • Hi, Christine! I apologize for my late reply; I just noticed your comment! It looks like both Ryan and Tara Sabin are scheduled for arraignment in the criminal case on February 2, 2021 at 9:30 AM in El Paso County court (DIV 21-Room W450 – West Tower).

    • No updates that I’ve found. The wheels of justice turn slowly, as they say, but COVID has slowed legal proceedings even further in many places. I hope Zachary (and his mom) will get justice this year!

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