A well-known writer from northern Michigan tried to commit a murder-suicide Tuesday with her 14-year old autistic daughter.
The attempted murder-suicide followed a very stressful meeting with the local school district in which Kelli and Matt Stapleton were told that their daughter Issy could not attend the local special education program this year.
Kelli Stapleton, who has written extensively about her battles on behalf of her 14-year old daughter Issy, left her husband a distressing message 1:45 pm Tuesday, September 3rd.
A police search found the mother and daughter in the family van around 6:30 pm, alive but unconscious in a remote area south of Elberta. There were two charcoal grills inside the van which had been lit but were burned out.
Issy Stapleton is in serious condition, and doctors fear permanent brain damage.
Kelli Stapleton was released from the hospital, and today she was charged with attempted murder. She is being held without bond.
Mother wrote column about family troubles
Kelli Stapleton wrote a blog called the Status Woe to chronicle her struggles with Issy.
She posted lots of family pictures on the blog, including a video of she and Issy saying their nightly prayers.
While autism generally doesn’t always result in violent behavior, Issy had a severe case. Many of her angry outbursts were directed towards her mother, but she would also beat up her younger and more petite sister.
Kelli characterized herself in one blog post as a victim of “domestic violence” and described the bruises and injuries at the hands of her daughter.
“I don’t like to be hit. It hurts me physically, and it hurts my feelings,” she wrote. “I know my abuser loves me. I also know my abuser will kill me. But I still can’t leave.”
In a news story last winter about the family, several photographs showed Kelli in the hospital with major injuries inflicted by her daughter.
“I felt like I needed witnesses,’ Kelli told a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
“If I didn’t survive this situation, I wanted people to know that I was a good mom and I did everything I could do, and I asked for help from all these resources. … I’m grateful people read my blog and wanted to help.”
Progress hopeful for Issy Stapleton
Recently Issy had gone away to a special training program, paid for partly by local residents who donated thousands of dollars to help the Stapletons.
On August 23, Kelli posted on Facebook: “Can. Not. Wait! ♥ Issy comes home in a week!!!!!”
On the day of the alleged attempted murder, Kelli wrote two long blogs. The first was happy and full of hope, but the second column chronicles very sad events.
"We picked up Issy from treatment,” she states in the first blog. "It feels wonderful to have her home. All of us as a family again. Living and loving under one roof. So much love.”
There were also many happy pictures in Kelli’s first blog post of September 3rd.
However, later in the same day Kelli wrote another story about the fateful meeting with the person they thought would be Issy’s new teacher. During the meeting, the teacher was trying to tweak Issy’s new behavior plan, which Kelli called “their miracle plan,” and an argument started.
When all was said and done, the Stapletons were told they had to home school Issy or find another school.
“So less than a week before school is to start, she is uninvited,” Kelli wrote. “I am devastated. My husband is gutted....I ruined everything.” She said that she had a severe case of “battle fatigue.”
Within a couple of hours of that post, Kelli made the fateful decision to try to end her life and the life of Issy.
Previous news stories told of loving household
Kelli Stapleton was “full of love, life and energy, and loves her children,” according to her friend Emily Vortuba.
The Stapletons have two other children. Matt Stapleton is the Frankfort-Elberta School District’s principal and athletic director, and is also on the village council. Kelli was on the planning commission.
A few months ago, the Stapletons told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that they were determined to have Issy live with them for the rest of their lives.
That was a lofty goal.
“She’s gotten to that point where she can’t help herself,” Matt told the reporter. “She’s hurting herself and she’s hurting others. She’ll always be autistic and she’ll always be with us, but unless we’re able to get some help for some of these behaviors she has, I don’t even know how to predict how the next 20 years will look like."
He continued. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to love your kids so much, but have them feel at risk when they’re in the house,”
“I feel like I let my family down when I can’t protect them all; I can’t protect (daughter) Ainsley or Kelli, and sometimes I can’t protect Issy from herself."
For more information, see ”No Bond for Benzie Mother.”
There is a also FaceBook page set up for support and ongoing information about the Stapletons.