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.