Mother Who Tried to Kill Her Autistic Teen Daughter Sentenced to 10-22 Years in Prison

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 8, 2014   |   4:02PM   |   Traverse City, MI

A mom who was upset that she couldn’t “fix” her teenage daughter who has autism and attempted to kill her has been sentenced to 10-22 years in prison.

Kelli Rai Stapleton, 46, tried to kill her daughter and herself on Sept. 3, 2013 by igniting two charcoal grills inside an enclosed van. After the attempted murder-suicide, her ex husband Matt Stapleton said he never could have predicted the act, but in retrospect it should have been apparent Kelli Stapleton needed help.

“Kelli was unstable. Kelli was crazy. She could hide behind a pretty smile and the charm and the quick-witted humor. She is very passionate. But the reality is, the reality continues to be, that she is irrational,” Matt Stapleton said. “She has been for a long time.”

stapletonStapleton’s friends, many of whom also have children with autism, said they could identify with her complex feelings about her autistic child and the struggle to keep up hope about treatment after various funding sources were exhausted or denied. The case is putting a spotlight on parents of disabled children.

In a report, the Associated Press has more on the sentencing:

Stapleton, 46, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree child abuse in a bargain with prosecutors who dismissed an attempted murder charge. She admitted driving her daughter Isabelle to an isolated spot in rural Benzie County, giving her a sleep-inducing drug and placing two charcoal-burning grills inside their van.

Both survived, although Isabelle, now 15, was in a coma for several days and suffered brain damage. Although largely recovered, she still has memory loss and problems with balance.

Circuit Judge James Batzer ordered Stapleton to serve a minimum of 10 years and said she will get credit for the 399 days she’s already served. He set her maximum sentence at 22 years.

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Stapleton and her former husband, Matthew, a school principal who recently obtained a divorce, were prominent figures in the adjacent Lake Michigan communities of Frankfort and Elberta. Stapleton was an outspoken advocate for autism awareness and kept a blog, “The Status Woe,” that updated readers about the challenges of finding proper help for Isabelle.

Stapleton wrote in the summer of 2013 that her daughter, nicknamed Issy, had gone through an intense program for severely autistic children near Kalamazoo. But Stapleton said she was “suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue” after the insurance company stopped paying for the treatment and local school officials changed Issy’s education plan.

She later told authorities she had concluded the best solution would be if she and her daughter “went to heaven.”