My heart has been hurting for Kelli Stapleton, Izzy Stapleton and their entire family.
If you haven’t heard of this case, here’s a quick explanation.
Kelli Stapleton is a mother of three. Her husband is a school principal. Their middle child, Izzy, is a 14-year-old autistic girl.
Izzy is EXTREMELY violent. Kelli has blogged about their daily life, much the same way I do, at www.thestatuswoe.blogspot.com. She’s included videos depicting Izzy’s aggression. She’s put Kelli in the hospital. It is severe, scary, dangerous violence.
Izzy was diagnosed with autism early and enrolled in intervention therapy at two. Her parents have FOUGHT HARD to get her services. They’ve tried everything available to them – even if it meant driving hours each way – including various therapies, medication, parenting techniques and diets.
The violence continued and as Izzy got bigger, it became more and more dangerous. While Kelli is her main target, she also frequently attacks her younger sister.
Their local news station did a story on the Stapletons in February. Izzy had just been accepted to a residential treatment program specializing in autistic children with serious behavioral issues. The clip showed a video of Izzy attacking her behavior specialist. It took three adults (not including the person being attacked) to get her off the woman. She kept hitting her in the head.
If it takes three professionals to free a fourth professional from Izzy’s violence, imagine what her parents are dealing with at home.
The treatment center cost $800 a DAY and at least six months was suggested. Kelli made it her mission to find a way, spending hours upon hours calling insurance company representatives and social services offices. Their loved ones helped them fundraise like crazy. They made it work. Izzy completed her treatment – or as much of it as the insurance company would approve anyway.
This meant she was able to go for 16 minutes without a violent outburst.
That’s not even enough time to recover from the last blow.
But, yet, it really was HUGE progress for her.
She was released with a behavior plan that Kelli had been working hard with the hospital staff to learn. There were specific components in place for school and home. Izzy was also approved for a staff person to help her both at home and school.
Kelli wrote about how happy she was to have her Izzy home – under the same roof – as the rest of the family on Sept. 3. However, on that same day, she also wrote about feeling serious “battle fatigue.”
The special education coordinator at the school Izzy was supposed to attend – the one her father works at as principal – disagreed with the behavior plan put together by the hospital. The coordinator took it to the school district. They decided they couldn’t meet Izzy’s needs.
The family was given two choices: 1. Homeschool Izzy or 2. Send her to a school an hour and half away (each way) by bus.
Neither of those options were appropriate for Izzy.
The Stapletons decided the only option was for Kelli and Izzy to move three hours away from the rest of the family so they could be near the hospital and schools familiar with the behavior plan. It was the only option they saw.
Well…not quite. Apparently, Kelli saw something else. Just days after Izzy was released from the hospital, where she’d been for seven months, Kelli drove to a remote area where she locked herself and Izzy in the family van and lit two charcoal grills. Her intent seemed to be to kill them both.
A worried call to the police by her husband about his missing wife and daughter helped police find them in time. Izzy is now recovering much better than expected in a hospital and Keliy Stapleton is in jail, facing murder charges.
Something broke inside of her.
To me, it seems obvious that she was certain she couldn’t handle her life any longer, that (in her mind) the best thing for and for Izzy was for them to leave this world.
I’ve read a lot of comments like, “I have three extremely violent autistic children and I would NEVER consider harming a hair on their head. Kelli is evil and it’s probably all her fault Izzy was violent in the first place – she probably knew how evil her mom is all along.”
Sometimes it’s the people you think would be the most supportive who are the first to turn their backs.
I’ve never considered disrupting my adoption, but I certainly see how others could reach that point.
I don’t condone what Kelli did, but I understand what led her down that path.
She was overwhelmed. She was exhausted. She was abused. She thought the school problem was all her fault. She blamed herself.
Her daughter was out of her care for seven months, but that doesn’t mean she was on a beach sucking back margaritas all that time. She was working hard to learn the behavior plan, ensure there was funding to get Izzy help and line up resources for when she was released.
Oh, and caring for two other children, her marriage and home.
AND driving back and forth to the hospital (a three hour drive each way) several times a week.
Izzy’s time in the treatment facility was no vacation for her mom.
She was hopeful that things were going to be better once Izzy was home, but it quickly started unraveling.
We don’t know what happened that morning that led her to go buy those charcoal grills and attempt to end the suffering.
Maybe Izzy had a big meltdown. Remember, she was only able to go 16 minutes without aggression in the hospital.
Perhaps other services fell through.
Maybe it just became too much.
For whatever reason, she had a psychotic break.
Contrary to what a lot of people are saying online, psychotic people are very capable of making plans. She was not in her right mind.
I can’t even begin to imagine the guilt, shame and pain she’s feeling in jail.
Or the confusion Izzy is feeling in the hospital wondering where her mother is.
Or the sheer panic Kelli’s husband is dealing with trying to figure out how he’s going to handle all of this on his own.
Or the sadness of the other two children who have already had to sacrifice so very much because of Izzy’s autism.
My heart is heavy for all of them.
Such an overwhelmingly sad story.