Escape from MADness

Lately I’ve been reading about Kelli Stapleton, the mother of a 14-year-old autistic child with violent tendencies who recently placed two charcoal grills in her van, turned them on, and let the van fill up with carbon monoxide while she and her daughter sat inside. (News Story Here)

I don’t know Kelli or Issy. I don’t know her family. But I went to bed last night saddened by the lack of compassion I’ve been reading about in comments and blog postings around the web.

People are saying she is a murderer, or at least would be, had her husband not called the authorities in time.

But I don’t think “murder” was ever the intention in Kelli’s woeful state. I think suicide was the intention, and taking her child with her was part of the confused and tormented love and hopelessness that led to her desire at that moment to just die.

How could she leave Issy in a world without her biggest advocate to fight for her right to be treated, educated, and loved?

How could she leave her husband with a violent, autistic and motherless child?

How could she leave her other children unprotected from Issy’s violent rages?

How could she leave Issy to fend for herself in a world that she could not navigate on her own?

There was no way around it for Kelli. If she had to take her own life, which clearly she felt she did, for at least that one, insane moment in time, then she had to take her daughter with her.

And yet, there are so many comments surfacing about murder and how Kelli should spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Prisons are filled with people who commit acts of evil, but Kelli Stapleton didn’t commit such an act. She committed an act of despair after facing 14 years of horror that most of us will never know.

If you’ve spent any time on her blog, as I have only begun doing, you know that she is as committed as a mother could possibly be to the well-being of her child. She snapped, and did the unthinkable, but I wouldn’t call it an attempt to murder her child.

Murder, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.

That’s not what happened here. It wasn’t rage she felt toward the daughter she was so invested in. She didn’t use a knife or a gun…she didn’t beat her daughter senseless. No. Those types of crimes show malice.

Kelli simply gave up.  And she chose to escape with her daughter by essentially putting them both to sleep, which, as twisted as this sounds, shows that her maternal instinct to “protect” was still somewhat intact.

I say this not to excuse what she did, but to show the difference between an act filled with rage and malice and an act of despair; to show the difference between attempted murder and a mother’s suicide attempt.

On February 5 of this year, Kelli posted Dancing on The Edge, a blog post that sums up her life as Issy’s mom….and the pain, guilt and love that the past 14 years have entailed.

She wrote: But what about HER!?!  Our daughter deserves a chance to have a happy life!  She is completely trapped in her aggression.  She is so special and has gifts to offer the world.  But we will never be able to reach her full potential as long as she is trapped in this aggression……

….I’m tired of her autism robbing her of a life.  I’m tired of it taking all of our resources (time, money, energy, everything).  I’m tired of dying slowly with each traumatic brain injury.  But mainly, I’m so DAMN MAD at watching my husband, a good man, work hard and never get ahead.  He can’t keep his family safe, and he can’t fix his broken daughter.  He deserves to come home and hug his family, pay the bills, kick the dog (that’s a joke) and do what good men do.

Our other children deserve all the time they haven’t been able to get from their parents.  All of the attention they deserve.  All the help with their homework they can use.  They are AMAZING.  They deserve to have a childhood….

…What do you do when you’ve done all you can do?  When every decision is out of your hands?

The blog post continues, with what I believe are cries for help…and missed indicators of things to come…

I write this not to excuse Kelli’s choices, but as my own plea, that instead of using our time and our voices to spread the hate that is already so prevalent on the internet, that we use that time instead to offer compassion, resources for those who need it, and prayers.

I am praying for the Stapleton family. I am praying for Issy’s complete healing and I am praying for grace for Kelli Stapleton. I hope you will join me.

Comments on: "Prayers of Grace for Kelli Stapleton" (4)

  1. I agree with you. Also, I honestly think God spared them both for a good reason. She seems like a truly good person, and I’m glad that they were found in time, Not only because of Issy, which of course I’m so thankful she will be ok, but for Kelli that she didn’t leave this world a murderer. Praying for all of them.

  2. charlotte vincent said:

    My prayers go to Kelli I myself do not have a child with autism. I believe God knew I would be unable to take care of the child or deal with the challenges that go along with being a parent of these special children. I just want to send my prayers and hopes to their family and kelli. charlotte

  3. It is never acceptable to kill another person out of “love”. Never ever. Kelli no longer wanted to live? Fine, she’s certainly entitled to kill herself. Her daughter? No. Kelli absolutely did not have the right to unilaterally decide Issy’s life was not worth living.

    It is also worth noting that Kelli was coming off 6+ months respite from Issy (who’d been in residential treatment several hours away) and had a professional, paid by Medicaid waiver 1:1 staff for all of Issy’s waking hours, who Kelli had already trained on her girl’s behavior plan. This is a TON of support. This is every support known to mankind. This is pretty much all the support in the entire world — true, Kelli didn’t get her preferred school placement for Issy (that may or may not have been the result of a single, spiteful school employee), but it was a recent (less than a week old) decision Kelli did not even bother to appeal.

    As you noted, Kelli was “with it” enough to buy disposable grills, drive herself and her daughter to a remote location, light the grills with windows/doors shut — all of 36 hrs after Issy was released from residential treatment.

    Less than 2 days with Issy (and a paid 1:1 staffer) after 6+ month break … Wow. Just wow.

    Finally, there is always another option — Kelli could have called 911 and reported herself for wanting to kill herself and Issy. Yes, CPS would have gotten involved with her family, she may have had to do what CPS told her to to get her daughter back — which would’ve been pretty awful… but a million times LESS awful than Issy being brain damaged and herself in jail (probably for the rest of her life for trying to kill her girl)!

    One last thing — a couple of years ago, a gentleman named Mr. Shafia moved his family from the UAE to Montreal. He was so horrified by his daughters behavior (boyfriends! Western clothes! The shame of it!!) that he “saved” his daughters’ reputations by murdering them (drowned near Kingston in the Rideau canal), since clearly they were better off dead. Not unlike Kelli, who felt that Issy’s life would be so horrible that she too was better off dead. Mr. Shafia was convicted of first degree murder and will be spending the rest of his life in jail — for unilaterally deciding his girls were better off dead!

  4. There are many details to this case which convince me the mother is not a loving mother who was in despair. She had round the clock care. Her daughter had just returned from an eight month stay in a care facility. Her daughter wasn’t violent for many years and functioned just fine in a regular classroom through the fifth or sixth grade. Suddenly, she began having outbursts. In my opinion the mother was abusive toward the daughter, planned to murder her, and used her fb comments, blogs, and interviews to set the stage for what she was planning. Consider the rapid recovery of the mother, talking freely to the emergency room nurses while her daughter took many days to recover. This fact makes me doubt her story that she was planning suicide. I don’t believe it just like I don’t believe her blogs. They seem to be nothing but a martyr routine and marketing of her daughter’s autism to collect many thousands of dollars from the community. Where did the tens of thousands of dollars go which were raised to pay for the daughter’s care even though the costs were covered by welfare and the insurance company? There is a whole lot more to this story than a woman who loves her daughter. Love doesn’t mean overdosing your child and forcing her to breathe in poisonous gas causing brain injury while planning to kill her.

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