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Kalamazoo man petitioning for federal charges in attempted murder-suicide
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A teenaged girl is continuing to recover in a Grand Rapids hospital just days after her mother, Kelli Stapleton, tried to take both their lives by lighting two charcoal grills inside their family van.
The story has gained global attention. 14-year-old Issy Stapleton has a rare form of autism, triggering extreme violence. Late last week, Kelli Stapleton was charged with attempted murder, but now a Kalamazoo man is circulating a petition pushing to charge Stapleton with a hate crime because her daughter has a disability.
Newschannel 3 learned today from a family member's Facebook post that Issy is about 95-percent better and now alert and awake. While her progress is good news, the story of the Stapletons continues to draw attention from all over.
While a Kalamazoo man tells me he can relate, he's hoping federal charges will keep Stapleton from a lesser punishment.
Addressed to the U.S. Department of Justice, Zach Lassiter has posted an online petition pushing for these charges against Stapleton, writing "the crime clearly targeted Issy due to her disability."
Telling Newschannel 3 he sympathizes with the Stapletons, especially when it comes to seeking government services, but goes on to say there's never an excuse to harm a child.
Lassiter, an advocate for those with disabilities, feels too often when crimes like this happen, a parent or guardian would receive a lesser sentence because of that disability. He's hoping his petition, already signed by hundreds, will change that.
"People with disabilities should be valued more by society than what they are," Lassiter says. "They should be valued by the court and legal system, and the fact that parents in this situation repeatedly get less sentencing than what they would if the child wasn't disabled, is frustrating to me."
Meantime, hundreds continue to support both Issy and Kelli at this time. There's been an outpouring of support on a Facebook page for the family, with one woman writing in part: "Kelli my prayers are with you. Please know that help, support and love is always out there. Chin up, you're not alone."
To view the petition online, click here.