The mother who attempted to murder her daughter gives first interview to Dr. Phil

By Jelisa Castrodale
Updated September 12, 2014 08:30 AM
Benzie County Sheriff/AP

Kelli Stapleton, the mother accused of attempting to kill her teenage daughter with autism, has spoken out about the crime for the first time since her arrest.

“The jail of Benzie County has been a much kinder warden than the jail of autism has been,” Stapleton told Dr. Phil McGraw in a clip provided exclusively to PEOPLE.

Stapleton, 46, awaits sentencing in a Michigan county jail. According to the Benzie County prosecutor’s office, on Sept. 3, 2013, Stapleton put her 14-year-old daughter Isabelle – known as “Issy” – in her van, drove to a rural location in Elberta, Michigan, and lit two charcoal grills inside the closed vehicle.

The two were later discovered unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. Issy spent four days in a “coma-like state” before making what was described as a miracle recovery.

In the months before the crime, Stapleton recounted her daughter’s physically abusive behavior on her website. She posted pictures of a black eye that Issy reportedly gave her and described the teen’s “horrific,” often violent outbursts towards other members of the family.

Stapleton “thought this would be the best solution,” police officers said she told them in a statement, “if Issy and her went to heaven.”

During their interview, McGraw produced a photograph of Stapleton with Issy and asked if she “dreamed” that they might be together again. “I do not allow myself to dream of that,” Stapleton responded.

Stapleton faced charges of attempted murder of her daughter, but on the night before her Sept. 3 trial, she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree child abuse. Stapleton could still be sentenced to life in prison: Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 6 and could continue through Oct. 7.

The interview will air on The Dr. Phil Show two consecutive days, on Monday, Sept. 15. and Tuesday, Sept. 16. In the second episode, McGraw speaks with Stapleton’s husband, Matt, who has since filed for divorce from his wife.

“I still love her,” he told PEOPLE in July. “But I cannot forgive her.”

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