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October 19, 2013

Elberta mother eyes book

BEULAH — An Elberta woman may write a book detailing her efforts to raise the autistic daughter authorities allege she tried to kill in a failed murder-suicide.

Kelli Stapleton, 45, remains in a Benzie County jail cell awaiting competency tests to determine if she’s mentally fit to stand trial for attempted murder. Authorities allege she tried to kill herself and her daughter Issy, 14, by igniting two charcoal grills in an enclosed van on Sept. 3.

Defense attorney Brian Johnson said Stapleton, who penned a blog called “The Status Woe” about her difficulties raising and securing help for her daughter, continues to write from jail. He’s reviewing new blog posts from Stapleton before they’re published and said a book was “absolutely” on the table, but stressed no potential writers or publishers have been identified.

“She might be,” Johnson said of Stapleton’s intent to write a book. “Not necessarily about this incident, but her life with an autistic daughter and the challenges it presents.”

The prospect of Stapleton breaking her silence drew a sharply divided reaction from friends sympathetic to her self-described “woe” and one prominent autistic advocate who said he was “flabbergasted” that a book was being considered.

“If that would be pursued (it) would be the height of inappropriateness and the ultimate example of the all-too-low regard for the value of autistic life,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. “As an autistic person, I’m profoundly concerned and offended that someone would attempt to cash in.”

Stapleton’s husband Matt Stapleton could not be reached for comment. Matt Stapleton filed for divorce after the attempted murder allegations and seeks legal and physical custody of their three children, including Issy, who suffered brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning.

His sister Sarah Ross said the Stapleton family has no comment on the case until the investigation is complete. She said Issy continues to recover at home and is working toward getting back to a classroom setting.

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