A Terrible Story: Weigh In

Kelli Stapleton is in jail without bond, for the attempted murder of her daughter Issy.

Kelli has documented her challenges as Issy’s mom in a blog called ‘The Status Woe.’ Issy is a lovely blonde 14 year old who is autistic. I’m not sure about Issy’s complete diagnosis but clearly the main problem has been her aggression. And her aggression is aimed primarily at her mother.

Kelli has been hospitalized twice following attacks by her daughter. Watch the video above to see what it looks like when there is an aggressive outburst.

Last week, Issy came home from 20 days at a treatment center whose complete program was too costly for her family to afford. They were hopeful about a new behavioral plan for Issy. But it didn’t work out.

Kelli managed to get her daughter into the family van, and then tried to kill herself and Issy via carbon monoxide poisoning. When they were found, both were unconscious. Kelli recovered quickly but Issy remained in a coma. Issy’s prognosis was not good.

But miraculously, Issy has recovered without brain damage.

Now what?

Is Kelli a monster? Is murdering your child ever anything but a capital crime and a mortal sin? Is sympathizing with Kelli tantamount to approving her actions? Should Issy’s parents have kept her at home, despite the obvious inherent danger? What if you love your child and can’t bear to have them institutionalized?

Isn’t the attempted murder of a disabled person the same as the attempted murder of any person? If not, why not?

Can you forgive Kelli?

I want to know what you think.


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30 Responses to A Terrible Story: Weigh In

  1. A mess, a big mess. The poor woman, the poor child and what purpose does it serve prosecuting someone for attempted murder who wanted to end her misery and with her child. I don’t think what she tried to do is right but the desperation is a key to her decision making. What a shame and I forgive her.

  2. Rachel B says:

    I’ve been following this and reading her blog…did you also see the video called “typical day” where Kelli is crying after a violent incident with Issy, and Issy attacks her again and all you hear is screaming? It’s chilling. I think she was at the end of her rope, and desperate to the point of not thinking straight…she just wanted it all to stop, and she wasn’t getting any help or answers. This entry is from almost exactly a year before the attempted murder/suicide and is pretty telling: http://thestatuswoe.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/going-to-the-deadbangers-ball/

  3. Sam says:

    Gee, when brains go wrong eh?
    It’s far beyond my comprehension.
    To my mind, don’t judge others till you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

  4. déjà pseu says:

    As someone with a severely retarded teenager who has been prone to aggression in the last couple of years, I can certainly understand her desperation. Resources and help are almost non-existant beyond a few hours a week of “behavioral therapy” and maybe some respite care if you’re lucky, unless you want to turn your kid over to the tender mercies of state institutionalization. I understand, and my sympathies are with here, even though I can’t say that what she did is ok.

  5. Cricket9 says:

    I have a friend who for years took care of her daughter with severe celebral palsy and autism. Even in a big city and within Canadian health care system is was a nightmare. Both parents became alcoholics; the girl was thrown out several times from a respite facility where she was supposed to stay for a day or a weekend – she was “too much” for them. The marriage fell apart and the girl is now in a group home; to place her there the mother had to give up the parental rights – her daughter is now a ward of state. My friend is fighting an aggressive breast cancer, which, in my opinion, comes from years of unrelenting stress. I can’t judge Kelli, and yes, I’d forgive her.

  6. D.R. says:

    My only daughter is 46, and has Down’s Syndrome….severe OCD and behaviors due to the unique problems that are associated with aging adults with Down’s. My only granddaughter is 21…she has autism, is non-verbal, incontinent, a seizure disorder and severe MR. I have legal guardianship of both of them. I’m 65 and have had years of worry over both my girls…I can’t imagine a mother who has dealt with grief and the worry that comes with children with special needs that hasn’t had fleeting fantasies. I did go to her blog and there is no doubt in my mind that she loves her child as passionately as any mother ever loved her child. If the prosecuting attorney hasn’t read it, he/she should. But prosecutors are politicians and they never admit they’re wrong. It’s a tragedy….heart-wrenching.

  7. tutti says:

    all i can say is that this is one of the most
    tragic stories Ive ever heard.
    i do have empathy for the mother.
    Its just horrific. She has already served
    a life sentence.
    However, I do think there has to be Stigma
    removed from people who have to put
    the child in an institution. It cant be worse
    than feeling you have to kill yourself and
    the child as an option.

  8. Suspended says:

    People living this kind of daily hell don’t need jail-time, they need support. This is so sad for everyone involved.

  9. Bessie the Cow says:

    Stress, stress, stress causes depression causes lack of clear thinking, causes acts of desperation. We should be talking about support structures, community help, prevention, care for all family members. Relief, coping mechanisms, holidays away and with family members. Intervention with skilled professionals who care. Extended family members that pick up the slack, neighbors, friends, etc. There is always an answer, sometimes we lack the questions. It should never resort to this. The parents need as much or more care if they are dealing with massive stresses of having a child that needs massive support.

  10. D.R. says:

    SW, I read your blog early this a.m. I received two phone calls shortly after…the first from my gd’s group home….a problem with menstrual cycles…spot bleeding after excessive bleeding from her regular cycle…which means an appt. with her gp….and of course more seizure activity. Ten minutes later a phone call from my daughter’s bio dad….a friend of Audrey’s…our daughter (Down Syndrome)….her bowling buddy of years died in his sleep last night. He was only 39, and in fact bowled with her on Monday. On Wed. morning, staff finds him dead in his bed???!!! And I’m reminded of all the sleepless nights wondering “what if Audrey dies before me…..and how will I survive?”….”and if I die before Audrey, how will she survive without me?” And my heart is aching for the Stapleton family. I tend to drunk type when I’m stressed. Forgive me.

  11. You can clearly tell that something is wrong with the child from the other videos posted under the channel. I don’t agree with the mother for doing this to her or her child, but can understand why she tried to act in such a way. I feel sorry for both of them.

    In situations like these a guardian can feel helpless, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t out there.

  12. ali says:

    I recently had to reconsider the possible legitimacy of suicide because my grandparents (who are the smartest, most active humans I know and in their late 70s) announced to me they had made plans for euthanasia in Switzerland……

    They introduced the topic by launching into a moral debate about when pets should be euthanized… and the cruelty (and selfishness) of not euthanizing an injured animal.

    It was quite shocking. But at the same time, I felt strangely relieved to hear this news. My grandparents are dignified and purposeful and they will die that way by their own choice and before they totally lose mental facility (date not yet pending).

    It really scared the crap out of me to recognize I was relieved by this news. I am selfish because I want them around forever and I am selfish because I am relieved that I don’t have to watch them deteriorate.

    The story you share is not a similar story, and, as Kate says, sounds like a big, big, awful mess.

    So I guess- we judge her. we damn her. but we do it without fuss. We (as a society) try not to make the situation any messier?

    I don’t know– this topic is pretty beyond me.

  13. mimi says:

    i cant judge because i truly have no concept of what it means to be at your wits end, completely and utterly at the end of your tether with no hope, no support and no chance for something better.

  14. annemarie says:

    My sympathies are completely with that poor, distraught woman. She should not go to jail.

    But this question– “Isn’t the attempted murder of a disabled person the same as the attempted murder of any person?”– remains. And the answers that immediately bubble up in my mind make me very uncomfortable. I don’t even want to type them.

  15. That seems like such a hopeless, miserable situation for them both. No one else would have any idea of the regular day-to-day for these people, and only fools would weigh in with an opinion as to what the mother should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s not for us to judge, believe it or not, although we all love to lord it over someone who has made a mistake or error of judgement, like their wrong doing elevates us as a person. It’s not up to us to ‘forgive’ the poor woman.

  16. Sister Wolf says:

    It’s interesting that not one person here has insisted that the mother deserves no sympathy. Elsewhere online, there are blogs and forums where her actions are deplored both as attempted murder AND a hate crime.

    Here’s something I haven’t seen discussed, and it came from my husband: If the daughter was a husband, the woman would have a solid defense of battered wife syndrome.

  17. Debbie says:

    I have a 27 year old stepdaughter with Downs Syndrome. When she was little she was VERY difficult. She once had a crying fit in the mall and sat down on the floor and refused to get up. A security guard came over to find out what was going on and was very suspicious of me … like maybe I was mistreating her or trying to kidnap her. When you are dealing with a child with any kind of mental disorder it is unbelievably challenging. Luckily for me, my stepdaughter has matured and is no longer difficult to deal with. She can take care of herself, cook for herself, etc., and is funny and sweet and great company. With that said, I cannot tell you how I feel for this poor woman and her child. Until one has dealt with this type of situation it is very easy to judge a parent. You have no idea how frustrating it is to deal with a child who has mental disabilities and the guilt you feel 24/7. At the worst times I used to pray to God not to let me burn in hell because I couldn’t stand my stepdaughter. It’s a horrible situation and my heart goes out to them both.

  18. jcf says:

    Yup kelli is a monster. I am a teacher/parent in a group home for highly behavioral adults with autism. There is really no program for her child? Not a place the school district could send her that may be more appropriate than a typical special needs class? Has issy been observed properly to determine the function of her aggression? Institutions are not her only option. Have they tried a physical restraint method in her behavior plan? As someone who gets scratched punched headbutted and almost bit on a very regular basis, this angers me beyond belief. I would think a parent would have more patience and perserverance. I have to research this case and come back with a coherent comment. Too many questions.

  19. Sister Wolf says:

    Madam Restora – If it’s not for us to judge, who is it up to? God? I am an atheist. The Justice system? Ha. I can forgive Kelli, in the same sense that I cannot forgive George Bush or Dick Cheney.

  20. Sister Wolf says:

    jfc – Please do come back and share your thoughts!

  21. manyquestions says:

    “Last week, Issy came home from 20 days at a treatment center whose complete program was too costly for her family to afford. They were hopeful about a new behavioral plan for Issy. But it didn’t work out.”

    Not entirely correct; Issy, in fact, completed 6+ months of treatment in a residential facility. The cost of the program ($765/day) was covered by the parent’s health insurance and various state agencies.

  22. D.R. says:

    SW, oftentimes a batterer will kill his wife, and then himself. Seldom does a battered wife who kills her husband then kill herself. Survival instinct, I think.
    Kelli isn’t mentally ill, but her case is more of a mental health issue than a criminal case, although what she did was wrong. I think she wanted to die and it’s so sad that she couldn’t see that she might not always feel the same way as she did the moment she made that horrible decision. She was physically and mentally exhausted and terrified for her child. Perhaps the DA will get his/her wish and send her to prison for life…and then maybe he/she will take care of Issy.

  23. Winter Bird says:

    Once something is put in the hands of our politically motivated judicial system, it’s fucked. All they care about are whore’s, war’s and linning their own pockets. I do believe in God and will pray for a miracle. Kelli deserves one and stranger things have happened.

  24. ali says:

    *the battered wife syndrome point is a fascinating one.

    Maybe the daughter & husband are the ultimate judges.

    Do *we* forgive or damn Kelli because she has trespassed on our collective duty to protect the children that populate our national community?

    Personally, I oscillate between two points:

    Wondering why Kelli did not, as jcf mentions, exhibit more patience and perseverance for the child she loved (?), and,
    having empathy for a hopeless, miserable, depressed, distraught (etc) woman/mother who is going to jail for life.

    But I am not very close to this situation and I haven’t dealt with anything like it before in my life.

  25. Madelyn says:

    How sad. My heart breaks for this poor woman. This whole thing reminds me too much of stories I’ve heard about women suffering from postpartum depression, how they are consumed with guilt over what the percieve to be ‘failing their children as a mother’. I’m sure these feelings were heavy on her heart, why else would she have chosen to die alongside her baby girl?

    As much as I hate to say it, she was right, she has failed her child. Clearly Issy needs more attention and an approach her mother is not mentally able to provide, and the mother needs time to recover, away from her daughter, preferably in prison. She did commit a crime, and it isn’t safe for Kelli or Issy to let her back into the family home.
    After reading her blog and seeing some of her YouTube videos, I really, truly think she has been depressed and traumatised for a very long time, and I don’t think this was the first time she ever considered suicide/murder. Which really makes me wonder, where the fuck was the father? Where were all the other members of the family, or her friends, or her doctors, or all the other adults in her life who, as a part of society are charged with safeguarding the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community?
    I forgive her, and my heart goes out to her and her family.

  26. manyquestions says:

    “where the fuck was the father?”

    Issy’s father has been her primary care-taker. Kelli lived in an apartment away from the family to avoid being beaten by Issy.

  27. Cricket9 says:

    @Elijah Hartgrove: “but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t out there” – no, often it does mean exactly that, no help out there. My friend was called by the respite facility – which, indeed, was supposed to provide a respite to the parents for a weekend every now and then – several times in the middle of the night to take her daughter back home, because she had a crying/screaming fit and the respite personnel was unable to calm her. Eventually they refused to take her in at all. As for help from extended family, friends, etc. – it’s not exactly your regular babysitting, not everyone can and should be in charge without training. We like to think that there is a solution – I did too, now I’m not so sure.

  28. brenda says:

    I’m really surprised by all of these posts. This woman admitted to giving her daughter an overdose of her medication, promising her s’mores to get her into the van, then setting a fire and keeping the fire going as her daughter passed out from the carbon monoxide poisoning. I highly doubt she intended to kill herself, if so then why was she talkative to the emergency room nurses and the daughter took many days to recover. Look at it from this angle –> what if the mother was abusive to the daughter and that is why and how the daughter suddenly began exhibiting aggressive tendencies. What if the mother planned on killing the daughter for many months? What if the mother never intended to die herself, only to play the martyr when she was ‘rescued’ in time. Remember, she left a voicemail for her husband and the police were able to find the van in time. Overwhelmed? Bull. The daughter had been away for 8 plus months in a residential care facility. Then a couple of days after returning home her mother gives her an overdose and puts her plan in motion. Didn’t have help? Bull. Tax dollars and the insurance companies covered the cost of care. The daughter had caregivers, school personnel, hospitals, doctor, and a community which held fundraisers and donated tens of thousands of dollars to the family for care which was covered by welfare and insurance companies. Where did that money go? Did you know the mother traveled/took vacations? Have you seen the video titled “kelli’s kittens” where the autistic daughter is instructed to place a kitten in the oven? Did you read the mother’s fb post when she wrote she was feeling “murdery” because of spending too much time with her family? Have you listened to the radio show where the mother called in and was told by the professionals that she needed help and to stop trying to view her daughter as the problem? I think she was abusive to her daughter. Look at the video where the mother is screaming and hysterical. What lead up to that point? What happened when she turned off the camera? Why is the video rolling during the episode? Did you know she said she was writing about her daughter so she’d have ‘witnesses’? It sounds to me like she was planning on murdering her daughter and it sure seems like she was abusive to her all along. For the people saying how much she loved her daughter –> bull. Mothers who love their daughters don’t attempt to murder them. I think it’s wrong on every level for people to be trying to make excuses for this woman. She tried to kill her daughter! She was receiving all sorts of help. Why is it her daughter was able to be in a regular classroom through the fifth or sixth grade then suddenly she started acting out? If my theory is right, she was trying to communicate what was happening to her behind closed doors. In my opinion, this woman is mean, an abuser, and she deserves to be prosecuted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.

  29. Rebekah says:

    There does seem to be something weird about the woman. Like brenda said, the video kelli’s kittens is rather disturbing, six plus minutes of the family pretending to do away with the kittens in various ways. The mother’s behavior is disturbing, in my opinion. There are three children, I assume the siblings of her autistic daughter. The son seems willing enough to play along with the game but the younger daughter has a look of confusion. It’s these two kids I feel most sorry for. I suppose you can’t judge a family by the videos they post on YouTube but I really was bothered by this on. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v0_MNXAAxc You can see all the family’s videos from this page: http://www.youtube.com/user/kellistapes/videos

  30. Sister Wolf says:

    Rebekah – Oh my god — I can’t watch much of that video but this is terrible. You’re right, there is something very wrong with this mother. No excuse for this. Jesus. Poor everybody! Thank you for giving me a broader picture of this family tragedy.

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