Mom Accused of Trying to Kill Autistic Daughter -- Stop Defending Her!

Kelli StapletonThe autism parenting community was dealt a tragic blow this month. Kelli Stapleton, a popular autism blogger and mother, was arrested after police found her unconscious, along with teenage daughter Isabelle Stapleton, in a van near Lake Michigan. Cops say Kelli was trying to kill the 14-year-old and herself in what's been labeled a murder-suicide attempt

Isabelle, who goes by Issy and who has autism, is recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning in a hospital. She's off life support and breathing on her own.

Her mother is in a Michigan jail, facing charges of attempted murder after cops allegedly found two portable charcoal grills in the car and the windows of the vehicle rolled up.

The situation is sad ... and troubling. Equally troubling are attempts to explain away what Kelli Stapleton is accused of doing last week.


I'm not a part of the autism community. My child is neurotypical. I can't pretend to understand what a day is like for parents fighting for their kids' rights, doing what Kelli Stapleton chronicled on her last blog post -- posted the very day of the alleged murder attempted -- on The Status Woe. Kelli had spent recent days struggling with the 14-year-old's school district to get her special education needs met.

Not easy stuff.

Still not a reason to try to kill your child.

I'm horrified by people who are calling for sympathy for Kelli. They seem to be well-meaning, politically correct attempts to be "understanding" of a life they don't understand.

I get it. If you don't have a kid with special needs, you don't know what life is like for a parent who does. Some would say I don't even have a right to wade in here.

But sometimes being on the outside looking in gives us a benefit of judgment not clouded by bias. 

The assessments that this life "drove" Kelli to make the decisions she's accused of, to make the choice cops say she made, are ... crazy. Even more, they're insulting to the hundreds of thousands of parents out there who have children at home with special needs, parents who would never think to murder their children.

Do we need to have a long talk about what resources are out there for parents of kids with needs like Isabelle's? Absolutely. We should talk about it now, and we should have been talking about it long before this tragedy.

But let's be clear: correlation is not causation.

Kelli's daughter's autism did not cause her mother to attempt a murder-suicide.

If Kelli did this -- remember, she's still innocent until proven guilty -- this is not about Issy. It's about Kelli. It's about her demons.

And it's not excusable.

What are your feelings about the crime here? Are you sympathetic?


Do you have suicidal thoughts or do you worry that someone you know might be considering suicide? There is always someone to talk to. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.


Image via Benzie County Sheriff

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