After stating that her daughter with autism “is not a monster – I am,” an emotional Kelli Stapleton, who pleaded guilty to trying to kill her child by carbon monoxide poisoning, was sentenced Wednesday to between 10 and 22 years in prison.
“I’m sorry,” Stapleton said in a Benzie County courtroom, addressing a list of family and friends, according to WWMT.com. “Please forgive me.”
The Michigan mom of three, who prominently blogged about her struggles with care and treatment for her daughter, Isabelle, pleaded guilty last month to shutting herself and her daughter, then 14, in a closed van with two lighted charcoal grills on Sept. 3, 2013. Although found unconscious, both recovered.
The plea to a charge of first-degree child abuse averted a trial for murder and led to a three-day sentencing hearing. Stapleton’s supporters urged leniency for their friend who, they and Stapleton’s former husband have said, was beaten and hospitalized as a result of her daughter’s increasingly violent outbursts. But her former in-laws expressed outrage that Stapleton portrayed herself as the victim.
“A mother’s supposed to protect,” said Sarah Ross, an aunt to Isabelle, known as “Issy” to family and friends, according to Mlive.com. “Issy trusted her mother that day.”
Forensic psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, who examined Stapleton in July, testified that Stapleton was suffering from post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorders and was legally insane when attempting the murder-suicide, according to the Associated Press.
Matt Stapleton, after divorcing his wife following the incident, testified that he could never accept what happened that day. But still, he tried to find the middle ground. “Kelli was crazy,” he said on the stand Tuesday. “She could hide behind a pretty smile and the charm and the quick-witted humor. She is very passionate. But the reality is, the reality continues to be, that she is irrational. She has been for a long time.”
He also looked inward. “I did not protect my daughter,” he said. “I did not think she was in danger, but as I look back, her mother was not stable and I did not insist that Kelli get help.”
“On more than one occasion to me and to her closest friends, Kelli stated ‘I just want to die.’ Kelli never stated that she wanted to kill Issy,” he said.
“Any rational person cannot accept this – this adds to her crazy,” he said. “People can call it PTSD, but the reality is she lost hope and had the delusion that people’s lives would be better without Issy.”
As a single father and school principal in Elberta, Michigan, who now is raising Issy and her two siblings at home, he added, “The only reason why my family is still standing is because of the unbelievable support of family, friends, kind strangers and this incredible community.”