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Mother of girl with autism charged with attempted murder
BENZIE COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Battle Creek native who Michigan State Police say tried to kill her autistic daughter and herself is officially charged with attempted murder. 45-year-old Kelli Stapleton is being held in the Benzie County Jail -- without bond.
State police say on Tuesday, authorities found Stapleton and her 14-year-old daughter Issy in a van. Both were unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. The woman Newschannel 3 spoke with also has a son with autism, but she says her situation is drastically different from that of the Stapletons. She says it's a disorder that can rule your life.
"I have to admit that I'm suffering a severe case of battle fatigue," words Kelli Stapleton wrote in an extensive post on her blog, The Status Woe. It's a blog that chronicles her life with a child who has a severe form of autism. It was her last post -- written Sept. 3 -- not long before state police say she drove Issy to a wooded area and lit two charcoal grills inside a van. Authorities later found the two unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning.
"It devastates the family because they're so many questions as to what's going to happen with that child," behavior analyst and consultant Amy MacFarlane says. She says parents working with a child with a severe form of autism are drained mentally, physically and emotionally.
"They have a feeling of: 'When does this end? When is it ever going to end for us?'" she says. "With typical kids, our kids go away to college at 18. You know we're looking for that transition. They don't have that."
And MacFarlane says there's added stress when the child is violent. In February, Stapleton told Newschannel 3 she was afraid her daughter would kill her. She took a home video during one of Issy's violent outbursts. This video was taken at the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research in Portage where Issy was receiving treatment. Issy returned home just last week.
Stapleton's post continued, "I'm so happy that Issy has successfully completed treatment. It was a miracle making that happen, but I never once had any peace or rest."
"I can't possibly imagine getting to that point, but I haven't walked in those shoes, but we don't know how you get pushed to the edge and you just loose it," MacFarlane says.
A date for Stapleton's preliminary exam has not been set, but Newschannel 3 is told it will happen sometime in the next two weeks. State police say Issy is still not awake; she hasn't moved her eyes or talked, but there has been some responsive movement. However, they say there is still the possibility that she could have permanent brain damage.