Traverse City Record-Eagle


January 15, 2014

Stapleton pleads not guilty

BEULAH — Kelli Stapleton put her future in a Benzie County jury’s hands and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

Stapleton, 45, of Elberta, appeared Tuesday for arraignment in 19th Circuit Court. The hearing offered her first opportunity in months of court appearances to enter a plea on accusations she tried to kill herself and her daughter Issy, 14, on Sept. 3.

A trial date has yet to be scheduled.

Stapleton’s attorneys Brian Johnson and Heidi Hodek also filed a motion for a criminal responsibility examination that could lead to an insanity defense. A state psychologist already determined Stapleton mentally fit to stand trial, but the new exam would delve into her state of mind at a more specific time.

“The criminal responsibility exam is to determine a person’s sanity when an alleged act occurred,” Hodek said.

Judge James Batzer declined to sign the motion because Stapleton’s attorneys haven’t filed a notice that they intend to make an insanity defense. Hodek said Stapleton’s attorneys plan several court filings in the next week, but didn’t comment on whether they’ll mount such a defense.

Authorities found Stapleton and Issy unconscious inside a sealed van with two ignited charcoal grills. Both suffered carbon monoxide poisoning but Issy spent days in a coma and awoke with permanent brain damage. Court documents state Stapleton told authorities that years of frustration with dealing with Issy’s condition and behavior led her to believe the best solution was if they both “went to heaven.”



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