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Mom who tried to kill autistic daughter called ‘selfish’

BEULAH, Mich. — A Michigan woman who admits she tried to kill herself and her autistic daughter is selfish and manipulative, a family member testified Monday during a sentencing hearing.

“The truth is, Kelli is blaming her family for her terrible decisions,” Eileen Stapleton said during a hearing in Benzie County court for Kelli Stapleton, who pleaded guilty last month to first-degree child abuse.

Eileen Stapleton is the grandmother of Isabelle Stapleton. Kelli Stapleton has said that she drove Isabelle to an isolated section of the rural northern Michigan county, giving her a sleep-inducing drug and lighting two charcoal grills inside a van last year.

Both survived, although Isabelle — now 15 — suffered brain damage from which she has largely recovered.

Kelli Stapleton, 46, was an advocate for families of people with autism and had blogged about her struggles to raise Issy, as she’s known, describing her daughter as prone to violent outbursts. She said in court last month that she had intended to kill herself and her daughter so they could go to heaven.

But speaking in a hushed courtroom Monday, Eileen Stapleton contended Kelli Stapleton never intended to die, noting that she had left the vehicle several times before emergency workers found them.

“She is smart enough, strong enough and determined enough that if she wanted to kill herself she would be dead,” Eileen Stapleton said.

“The truth is that Kelli didn’t want Issy any more and made it look like it was unselfish and loving, but it was not unselfish and loving,” the grandmother said.

Lawyers and Judge James Batzer spent much of Monday morning scoring the guidelines for the sentence. The hearing could last two days, and Stapleton could get up to life in prison.

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