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.


Sympathy to an Extent: Stars Who Attention-Seek

8 08 2011

No matter how delicately I try to word this, it is going to sound mean – so lets just jump right in, shall we?

I saw on People that Giuliana (formerly DePandi) and Bill Ranic are yet again trying to have a baby.
Good for them, if that’s what they want.

I commend their strength in sharing the loss of one pregnancy publically, but they are truly bringing more stress into their lives by sharing intimate details about the struggle to concieve.

During one of several appearances on “The View,” Giuliana admitted “…my doctor recommended that I gain weight in order to start ovulating consistently,” which was something the E! News anchor had trouble with because of her fit lifestyle and job pressure. “I finally did gain five pounds,” she said.

To that, co-host Whoopi Goldberg ventured “You know what? You want to have a baby, you need to prepare your body for that other person who’s going to be there.”

Mrs. Rancic fired back in a subsequent statement/interview, “I did gain weight and I still didn’t have a kid.

Bill and Giuliana Rancic, married in 2008.

I’m not a doctor, clearly.

But I worked with girl a few years ago who most certainly had (has) an eating disorder. She reguarly went without a period and frequently feared an unexpected pregnancy because of said inconsistency.  This, I have learned, is called an “anovulatory menstrual cycle.”   Her doctor told her she needed to eat better (or at all) in order to have a normal cycle and life.

So I don’t buy Giuliana’s claims that “it’s all [my] age.

Yes, women over 30 have a 15% decline in fertility each month, with serious health risks challenging those who attempt to become mothers in the neighborhood of 40.

But there are factors at play that make one’s womb inhospitable including PID, PCOS, inborn genital tract abnormalities, eating disorders/malnutrition, alcohol/drug use, stress, and intense exercise.

Her verbalized hesitation and percieved inflexibility to pack it on to get pregnant, suggest to me that her nightly gig as Seacrest’s sidekick on E! are more important to her than motherhood.

I am torn as to what is my own arguement related to this story.
Do I think they are stressing themselves out of success by sharing such personal information with the national media? Do I think she just wants to put a face on a problem many women in this country face? Do I think they are devaluing the amazing act of adopting? Do I think Joan Rivers should tell her to STFU? Do I think I’m an idiot for bothering to read about her at all when she’s barely famous?
YES on all counts.

You want a baby and a family and a normal life?
Get a grip, get out of Hollywood, get out of the papers and get off  TV.

American Idol 2011: Traumas Continue to Eclipse Talent

28 01 2011

I’ll be up front, I haven’t watched a season of “American Idol” from beginning to end since 2006- or as I like to call it, The Year Chris Daughtry Should Have Won.

My opinion of and interest in the competition series has changed from the Kelly & Carrie days- back when talent triumphed over whatever tale of trauma the participant was toting.

Arguably, the audition episodes are no more than an expensive forum for shenanigans and sob-stories. Some of the contestants who really set themselves apart in Hollywood week or on the final stage aren’t even showcased during the selection period. (The “Top #” group has ranged from a final 8 to 13.)

 It is telling that rules or protocol have changed from season to season- with the age requirement/range and wild card round being prime examples. The age thing makes me think that they know the quality of the show isn’t what it has been, and they are reaching as young as possible to try to find a Justin Bieber or Miley Cyurs kind of gold. (ATTN AI PRODUCERS: ONE OF THEM IS ENOUGH!)  As for the wild card, it worked for four seasons and it really made for a burst of excitement (or anger, depending on who was picked) right before the finals. LWhy not reintroduce that to spice things up instead of letting middle schoolers audition?

I think that it is time for ‘Idol’ to bow out gracefully- much like Simon Cowell just did.  Nobody in the 19 Entertainment offices took it as a clue when Cowell turned down over $100 million contract that maybe the show had run it’s course?

I digress.

The issue at hand is

From the beginning, instead of a short backstory about why these people love to sing, their experience level, and their goals if chosen- we got tears.  (I’m looking at you, Jim Verraros.)

Dozens of bloggers have posted about last night’s episode, which featured a four-minute segment on Chris Medina, 26, from Chicago, IL.  Before he was even able to get out the title of his chosen audition tune (“Break Even” by The Script), Medina became the latest face on the seasons-old issue: The Sympathy Vote.

Now, don’t misunderstand, my heart is not made of stone.  I got a little choked up when Randy, J.Lo, and Steven Tyler asked Medina to bring his fiance, Juliana, in to meet them.  A little act of kindness from these percieved untouchable, mega-celebs is always welcome!
Contrary to others online, I don’t think that Medina was in any way trying to exploit his situation or his fiance… But these sort of scenarios are thrust upon us watching at home way too early in the game.  Sharing the tragedies of their past off the bat makes contestants memorable for the wrong reasons.

Yahoo! Blogger Lyndsey Parker hit the nail on the head with this morning’s “Reality Rocks” column, in which she pointed out “TV producers love this sort of tearjerking tale and the buzz it creates. So if any exploitation was perpetrated, the producers are probably to blame, not Chris.”

Parker really got me thinking…  All of my anger is displaced! I shouldn’t be upset with Danny Gokey for going on (and on and on) about his late wife, or Chris Golightly for playing the orphan card, or even Lil Rounds for bringing up the whole homeless by tornado thing.

The dozens of bloggers who so quickly aimed to crucify Chris Medina should all take a step back and acknowledge that Medina wouldn’t have just offered up this painful experience if nobody interviewed him beforehand.

Why can the hordes of hopefuls not just come in, sing, and leave- with or without their golden ticket?

If the intentions of the big shots over at ‘Idol’ was truly to find the next great musical icon, the emphasis should be on the 10 or so bunch of finalists, not the hundreds of dressed up, tone-deaf idiots who make it on-air for the first month.

MTV Is Not The Enemy

23 01 2011

Lately it seems that every time there is a spike in this or that small town’s teen pregnancy rate, the finger is pointed at MTV– instead of the poor quality of this nation’s sexual education program’s.

With the Gloucester, MA “Pregnancy Pact” not yet out of memory, CNN covers a story out of Memphis, TN in which 90 students at Frayser High have (or are about to) become parents.

On the heels of the Frayser story came a sparkling gem of insight from Kim Kardashian’s personal blog, “…shows like ‘Teen Mom’ are all of a sudden making teen pregnancy seem cool in the eyes of young girls. The kids from these shows are all over the news, even on the covers of magazines, and have become almost like celebrities, but girls, these are not people you should idolize!”

Amber Portwood, whose story has been featured on both “16 & Pregnant” and [it’s spin-off] “Teen Mom,” beat me to the punch with her response to this glaring hypocrisy.  “She [Kardashian] made a sex tape when she was younger and she wants to bash the girls on ‘Teen Mom’?” Portwood told E! News.

The statistics on teen pregnancy available through the CDC and The Candie’s Foundation websites are startling, and sort of indisputable, but as a viewer of the MTV programming in question- I can attest to the lessons learned from watching harsh realities that all of the girls are living.

Although the evidence suggests the rate of live births to women under 19 are the highest they’ve been in a decade, I have a hard time believing that any teenage girl- regardless of maturity, economical status, and family history- would want to live the lives of the “Teen Mom’s”: Maci, Farrah, Catelynn, and Amber or Leah, Kailyn, Chelsea and Jenelle.
I tune in (guiltily) each week and no matter how it sounds- I am thankful for what I have, and what I don’t. Whatever happened to me that day that may have been stressful or expensive, is not nearly as difficult to face as what these girls have done to themselves. 

Is there entertainment value to the trials and tribulations of teen motherhood as shown by MTV? Of course. They wouldn’t bother filming if there weren’t 2.5million people watching every week!
I totally realize and acknowledge that there are tricks and bending of truths to any reality show, but “Teen Mom” isn’t “The Hills”- you can’t really script a story for these girls to follow. They’re a little busy with their babies to fake custody issues and near poverty!

I commend MTV for opening the eyes of the ever younger sexually active America, and for encouraging them to educate themselves- as it is clear that our schools and (many) parents cannot or will not.
Their decision to pair up with longtime host of “Love Line” and established practicioner Dr. Drew Pinsky was a stroke of genius. He is medically knowledgable, compassionate, and understanding of the contemporary social climate.