Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 10, 2013

Frankfort principal back at work

FRANKFORT — Frankfort High School’s principal is back from a leave of absence that began in the wake of accusations his wife tried to kill their autistic daughter.

Matt Stapleton returned to work Tuesday after a tumultuous month in which his daughter Issy, 14, suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and potential brain damage from what authorities termed a failed murder-suicide attempt by his wife Kelli Stapleton, 45, of Elberta.

Tom Stobie, superintendent of Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools, said Matt Stapleton’s paid nondisciplinary leave began Sept. 17. Stapleton hadn’t worked full-time since the incident.

“Then we met on (Sept. 28) and he felt he needed another week,” Stobie said. “And so we granted him a week and beginning that time he used his leave days.”

Matt Stapleton and his attorney didn’t return calls for comment.

Kelli Stapleton remains without bond in Benzie County jail on an attempted murder charge. Authorities said she tried to kill herself and Issy by igniting two charcoal grills inside an enclosed van parked on a rural Benzie County road on Sept. 3.

Issy’s condition was uncertain as she lingered in an unconscious state after the Sept. 3 incident, but showed signs of improvement when she awoke days later. Her mother quickly recovered, but was initially placed under suicide watch in the days following her arrest.

Kelli Stapleton’s attorney Brian Johnson said his client will undergo a medical evaluation to determine if she’s fit to stand trial. He said a hearing scheduled today in 85th District Court on the matter was canceled after the prosecutor agreed to not contest the need for a competency evaluation.

“Practically speaking, that means the state forensic center will do determination with Kelli,” he said.

Johnson said evaluations typically take two or three weeks, but the time can vary.

Mead on Oct. 4 declined to authorize a petition that would have denied Stapleton’s parental rights. He argued the pending criminal case and a divorce filing by Matt Stapleton — which seeks legal and physical custody of their three children — made the Department of Human Services petition unnecessary.

“It was dismissed without prejudice so DHS can bring it back,” Swanson said.

The “neglect and abuse” hearing was required by state law after the allegations were made against Stapleton.

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