Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 6, 2013

Elberta woman arraigned on count of attempted murder

ELBERTA — An autistic teenager from Benzie County remains hospitalized after what authorities termed a failed murder-suicide attempt committed by her mother.

Kelli Stapleton, 45, of Elberta, was arrested and arraigned Thursday in 85th District Court on one count of attempted murder, Benzie Prosecutor Sara Swanson said. District Judge John Mead ordered Stapleton held without bond in the county jail.

A sheriff’s deputy found Stapleton and her daughter Issy, 14, unconscious inside a van Tuesday and suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It appears quite clear that this was a purposeful and intentional effort on the mother’s part to extinguish the lives of herself and her daughter,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Kip Belcher.

Benzie County sheriff’s deputies and state police were dispatched at 1:45 p.m. on a missing persons report. Belcher said Stapleton left her husband Matt a distressing voice message and he called authorities about 1:45 p.m. to report his wife and daughter missing.

“I don’t know the content, but he found it disturbing,” Belcher said. “Thereafter, the family van was found missing from the residence.”

The full-size van was found about 6:30 p.m. off a wooded two-track near St. Pierre Road south of Elberta. Kelli and Issy Stapleton were unconscious inside and near two portable charcoal grills that had been lit but appeared to have burned out.

Both suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and were transported to Munson Medical Center before being transferred to a Grand Rapids-area hospital. Kelli Stapleton was arrested upon her release from the hospital, but Issy remains hospitalized and doctors fear she suffered permanent brain damage.

Matt Stapleton was in Issy’s hospital room Thursday afternoon when reached by a Record-Eagle reporter. He didn’t want to speak about Issy’s condition while he sat by her side, but expressed appreciation for the public’s concern.

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