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Mom of autistic daughter accused in murder-suicide try blogged her despair

BEULAH, Mich. — Kelli Stapleton, the Michigan woman accused of trying to kill herself and her severely autistic daughter, blogged that day about how desperate she was feeling.

"I have to admit that I'm suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue," Kelli Stapleton wrote Tuesday on her blog, The Status Woe, where she chronicled the challenges of raising her 14-year-old daughter, Isabelle, who sometimes had violent outbursts.

Stapleton, 45, and Isabelle were found unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning that day in a van in which charcoal was burned with the windows all closed. Isabelle remained in critical condition Friday at a Grand Rapids hospital, her father, Matt Stapleton, said in an email to news outlets.

Kelli Stapleton appeared in court Thursday, where she was ordered to remain in jail without bail on an attempted murder charge. Her attorney, Anthony Cicchelli, declined to comment.

The family is well-known in their small community of Elberta, which is near Lake Michigan about 150 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. Matt Stapleton is the principal and football coach at nearby Frankfort High School, and local news outlets have reported about him and his wife's challenges in raising Issy, as Isabelle is called.

"It's really early in the investigation. ... It's safe to call it shocking and tragic, definitely," prosecutor Sara Swanson said Friday. "Everyone is focused on hoping the child does well and pulls out of this. That's where the focus is now."

It was Matt Stapleton who reported he was worried about his wife and daughter after getting a phone message from Kelli and finding their van was gone from their home, authorities said.

On her blog, Kelli Stapleton wrote that Issy had completed an intense program for severely autistic children near Kalamazoo but that her education plan had been abruptly changed by school officials.

"I am devastated. My husband is gutted," she wrote.

Some parents of autistic children expressed empathy in interviews with the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

"I don't judge her, and it was absolutely not the way to handle it," said Sherry Ginn Richards of Interlochen.

"But when you get to that point, you can't think rationally. My heart goes out to them because I've been there, and I know what it felt like," she said.

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