Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 27, 2013

Stapleton ordered to stand trial for attempted murder

BEULAH — Kelli Stapleton is headed to trial over allegations she tried to kill her autistic daughter.

Stapleton, 45, of Elberta, waived her right for a preliminary examination during a brief court appearance in 85th District Court on Thursday. Judge John Mead found Stapleton made her decision “understandably, intelligently and voluntarily” and bound over the case to 19th Circuit Court for trial.

A Circuit Court arraignment date hasn’t been scheduled.

Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Swanson said defendants commonly waive preliminary hearings in which judges decide whether there’s probable cause to send a case to trial. Such hearings can include witness testimony.

“It’s a very low standard of proof and generally not difficult for the state to prove,” Swanson said. “So all they’re doing is just agreeing that we can probably reach that very low standard so they’re comfortable going forward.”

Stapleton faces one count of attempted murder after authorities said she tried to kill her daughter Issy, 14, and herself on Sept. 3 by igniting two charcoal grills inside an enclosed van.

Both suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and received treatment in Traverse City and Grand Rapids-area hospitals. The police report states Stapleton told an emergency room nurse she wanted to send Issy “to heaven.”

Issy Stapleton suffered brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning and lingered for days in a coma. She’s now living with her father, Frankfort High School Principal Matt Stapleton, and has made strides in her recovery.

Defense attorney Heidi Hodek requested Mead reduce the 10 percent $1.5 million bond, calling the amount “extremely excessive.”

“She is not a flight risk, she is not a risk to herself or anyone else at this point in time,” Hodek said. “She has ties to the community and people who are willing to take her in.”

Mead left the decision to reduce bond to 19th Circuit Court Judge James Batzer. He said Stapleton’s attorneys didn’t raise the issue of bond during an earlier hearing and wondered whether they were concerned about “something” coming out in court.

“If that something is that she’s a flight risk, I need to make sure it’s worth her time or anybody who (bails) her out’s time to make sure she showed up in court,” Mead said.

Stapleton’s other defense attorney, Brian Johnson, declined comment. Swanson declined to comment whether she’s considering making a plea offer.

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