Michigan Mother Arrested for Attempted Murder of Disabled Teen Daughter

7 09 2013

I am so appalled by a People magazine brief I read online about this Michigan mother who tried to kill her autistic 14-year-old.  I can’t not comment on this.

Kelli Stapelton Mug Shot; Benzie County, MI

Kelli Stapelton Mug Shot;
Benzie County, MI

I can imagine, to a degree, what it’s like to parent a differently abled child; as my mother has been an educator and administrator in the special ed sector for nearly three decades. She worked with kids who were emotionally disturbed, had mental retardation, and autism. I have grown up being exposed to, and fairly well educated on, their issues and limitations, as well as the strategies and successes; and participated in different activities with and for autistic children and young adults. On several occasions, particular students that struck a chord with her would be brought into our home and included in family activities.
My mom’s stories about some of the pitiful families these kids come from turn your stomach and break your heart. These children are not disposable, not a single one of them, no matter how impaired or volatile. People with patience can achieve results that will leave the kid feeling capable and valuable.

That said, reading about the the accused, Kelli Stapleton, sent me immediately into a kind of rage. HOW could any parent kill their child? HOW could any parent of a disabled child turn on them that way? HOW will this girl, if she ever recovers, be able to trust her mother (and primary caregiver) again?!

I was compelled to read Stapleton’s blog, which is titled “The Status Woe,” which was not only referenced but quoted in the People article. (DISCLOSURE: Like this page, it is hosted by WordPress.)

I cannot believe what I read.  It is one thing to advocate for your child, a very necessary thing whether they fall on the spectrum or not, but quite another to admit to bullying your way to get what you want-– when the trained professionals have a different plan for how best to manage your child’s day to day. “It takes a village,” unless Kelli Stapleton lives in that village. She is a one-woman show.
Besides the fact that this woman has put their entire lives, every bloody detail, out there for the world when her daughter has no way to protest; I was disturbed by the amount of attention-seeking and immature illustrating Stapleton does.  How can someone expect to be respected and taken seriously when they have adorned their “website” with gifs and banners, admitted to being profanely vulgar towards a county mental health staff, or chastising a teacher (and co-worker of your spouse!) because she dared to do her job and input on the ‘behavior plan.’

There are certain phrases, buzz words if you will, that people in this industry- parents, educators and aides, and (OT/PT) therapists- do not use. (Ex: Normal.) Stapleton’s blog is littered with them and she places blame on the child for behavior she is not yet able to control (Ex: stating her daughter makes their homelife ‘horrific’). These are not altogether unforgivable offenses, but they raise red flags.  Stapleton is very ‘me me me,’ telling the Traverse City Record-Eagle last February that she started her blog because “I felt like I needed witnesses… 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.”
She even blogged that, “For 12 years, I have done a fabulous job of complementing professionals to stroke egos, kissing enormous asses to get needs met, flexing my muscles when necessary, and begging when it was called for,” but stated outright that no one would be “FUCKING WITH THE BEHAVIOR PLAN.” Seems to me like it’s Stapleton’s way or the highway, and that means her daughter’s well-being hangs in the balance.

I won’t feign sympathy for someone who tried to kill their child, and being that her family has volunteered personal information by way of that blog, and a Facebook group, I CAN CRITICIZE HER ALL I WANT.

Isabelle, and her father, Matthew Stapleton. Photo source: The Daily Mail (UK)

Isabelle, and her father, Matthew Stapleton.
Photo source: The Daily Mail (UK)

Stapleton’s husband, Matthew, wrote (in part) on the “Team Issy” Facebook September 5th: “So many of you have been very supportive of Isabelle and my family… and for this we are grateful. We are blessed with supportive friends, family, and an incredible community. Even strangers have been supportive of Issy and we ask that they continue to do so during this tough time.
We are also aware of the many stories and rumors that can accompany such events. We ask that you continue to keep the focus on Isabelle’s recovery and not necessarily on the events that have brought us to this unfortunate fight for her life. We ask that people don’t judge, but instead direct their positive energies on the recovery of this beautiful young lady.”

Seriously?  Haven’t you asked your community for enough?  They bought bracelets and t-shirts, they signed petitions and sent letters, they consistently fundraise. Your wife, who previously said the community’s continued support was “just so humbling and beyond generous and amazing”, just tried to kill your daughter.  How dare you even consider asking more of them.

Autism is no one’s choice, but the situation the Stapleton’s now find themselves is entirely Kelli Stapleton’s fault. Her choices to strong arm the insurance companies, the clinical organizations and therapists, the school district… all lead to this family’s back being against a wall and their daughter with no program to attend. Stressful as that is, killing her solves none of the problems, and further, doesn’t teach her mother to be less selfish.  Several news outlets (GOOGLE IT, I can’t link to them all) report that the “incident” was a murder-suicide… perhaps. But as we see entirely too often with filicide, the parent survives. THAT is why Kelli Stapleton has been charged with a crime, THAT is why Kelli Stapleton deserves to be in jail, THAT is why Matt Stapleton should get a good divorce lawyer.

I look forward to the comments and continuing coverage of this story. I can only hope it reaches national news channels and crime shows (I’m looking at you, Nancy Grace), and justice is properly served for this girl.

UPDATE     Despite statements made to police that Stapleton believed it was time she and her daughter “went to heaven,” as she had reached “her wit’s end” with her daughter’s condition; a court appearance has been set to determine her competency in participating with her defense.  Stapleton admitted that she lured the girl to the family van, drugged her, and then set ablaze two charcoal grills to kill them both– because “this would be the best solution for the family” to end the her frustration with the girl’s condition– according to trial transcripts and a Michigan State Trooper affiliated with the case.
Kelli Stapleton’s husband, Matt, who is prinicipal of Frankfort High School, has petitioned for divorce and full custody of their three children.

I think it’s very clear what Stapleton’s motivations and intent were, and there should not be a judge or jury in the world compassionate enough to believe that a mother who claims to have devoted her entire existence, and blogged about it for all to see (praise), to creating a full life for her daughter, could have “snapped,” or behaved in such a way without premeditation.  This was her life for over a decade, which means she had nearly 4,000 days to consider how, when and where to kill her middle child.





12 responses

8 09 2013
sarah james

The mother is very selfish. She could have arranged for respite or foster care or even given the child up. I hope Issy is in a save, loving, and supporting home in the future.

9 09 2013

You can imagine what it’s like to parent a “differently abled” child because your mother was an educator? Is that like saying I can imagine what the pain of childbirth is like because I stood next to her while she birthed our daughter? Sorry, but you have no reference point for a Direct Judgement. The Stapelton’s wanted the best for their children. *all* of them; special needs or not. Perhaps Kelli needed *HELP* in more of a way than a hand holding and a version of kumbyia saying it will all just have to be okay. It sounds like Hope was lost (it’s the one ingredient that keep all of us parents of “special” children going). I don’t know what went through her mind at the time she made the decision to attempt an End for both of them, but I can tell you it didn’t contain Hope. I can also tell you it didn’t contain any selfish “I can’t deal with you in my life anymore” thoughts either. It’s not like she lit the fire and closed the van door from the outside, walking away. She was there. She’d lost Hope. She’d reached a point that *THIS* seemed to be the only thing left to do. I am not saying it is right, correct, or proper; I am simply saying she was not trying to end one life to improve her own. Whatever brief “across the room for an hour at a time” dealings you’ve had with a Severe Autistic Child, don’t cast a judgement of someone who has spend YEARS parenting one; and attempting to do everything under the sun to make sure that child had the best options possible. As a parent of a child with much less severe “different abilities”, I can say I would go to the ends of the earth, kissing ass and pissing off whomever necessary, to make sure my child received every possible chance at whatever “NORMALCY” exists for her.

16 09 2014
Jeanine Brown

Very well put Michael. Thank you for showing human compassion because unless we were there, and walked in her shoes we simply cannot know the depths of this family’s struggles. It bothers me very much that a husband can so easily abandon his wife of 17 years and refuse to forgive her. He says he still loves her but he cannot forgive her. Well Matt, that is not love by refusing to forgive and abandonment

13 01 2014

Amen, Michael! I’m sick and tired of all these self-righteous moralizers making speeches about a life they can’t even glimpse.

12 07 2014

You have written an excellent article. You really seem to have hit the nail on the head when you write about how selfish the “mother” seems. I wonder if she has munchausen where a parent needs attention so much that she makes her child ill. The daughter had been fine for most of her young life until one day the mother announced how fortunate they were the daughter was not the aggressive type. Then all of a sudden, one day later, the “mother” started reporting that the daughter was aggressive. Hmm… I hope the jury gives her a very long sentence.

14 09 2014

Hello, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.

15 09 2014
Brenda Trithart

Perhaps it is too easy to judge when we have not lived someone else’s life. Unless we have all the facts and sit on the jury of this woman’s trial, it is not our place to judge.

16 09 2014
Jeanine Brown

OMG we should have known this Brenda who seems to know it all (must be the live in hired help to know so many intimate details) would throw her lousy 1 cents worth

16 09 2014
Laura Kelm

Kelli is my sister in law. She is an attention seeking narcissist. It is amazing how she spent all of her time “advocating” for Issy and still managed to go mountain climbing in Africa, run marathons, write some books about child birth, travel often promoting her books, do her web cast, hang out at the local bar,blogging, facebooking, and other things that I will not mention for the sake of my step brother’s privacy. She was and is all about herself. And now she is using the media to dupe people into feeling sympathy where none is deserved. She was not an amazing, involved parent that only had her family’s welfare at heart. And it makes me sick reading comments all over the web from people feeling sorry for her.

17 09 2014

Could not agree more with Michael. You totally lost me when you said that you could relate on some level to what it’s like because your mom was a special ed teacher…Seriously? Even if you were the special ed teacher yourself, you would get to go home. Amen for the awesome teachers, but it’s totally different being the parent who has the 24/7 complete responsibility for the child, and also the responsibility of keeping her other children safe. No one condones what she did. This woman was clearly desperate and needs help.

19 09 2014

>Her choices to strong arm the insurance companies, the clinical organizations and therapists, the school district… all lead to this family’s back being against a wall and their daughter with no program to attend.<

There were no choices from the start. Hopefully someday you will be wise enough to know what you don't know. It's self-righteous, but totally ignorant fools like you who run the schools and insurance companies to the detriment of all.

22 09 2014
Kelli Stapleton: A Year Later (And Still a Coward) | Marshall Lately

[…] response to my other post, published a year ago, has been mixed… with some people so sympathizing with Kelli Stapleton as to attack me. You […]

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