Defense psychiatrist "disappointed" by Stapleton plea deal

Even though Stapleton faces life in prison, Dr. Lieberman hopes she will receive the minimum sentence.

Kelli Stapleton pleaded guilty to first degree child abuse in court Tuesday.

Stapleton admitted to trying to kill her teenage daughter and herself in a parked van last summer.

Stapleton agreed to plead guilty to first degree child abuse which is a felony with a possible life sentence. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped other charges, including attempted murder.

Despite that admission, a key medical witness for Stapleton says the mother believed she was doing the right thing.

Doctor Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist hired by Stapleton's defense team, was going to try to prove Stapleton was legally insane at the time of the incident.

"I'm not saying that it was reasonable or logical thinking, but it was her state at the time," said Lieberman.

Lieberman pored over Stapleton's case file. In July, she conducted a psychiatric evaluation, talking with Stapleton, as well as her family members and friends.

She found dealing with her daughter's autism and violent outbursts, some which knocked her unconscious, took a severe toll on Stapleton.

â??Kelly has been living in a war zone. She actually was in fear for her life. Issy's attacks and assaults became more and more violent as she got older and bigger and stronger and more out of control.â??

Despite the violence, Lieberman says Stapleton felt she was acting in her daughter's best interests.

â??She loves her daughter. In her mind there was no mal-intent. In her mind it was done out of love.â??

As an expert witness, Dr. Lieberman expected to testify in Stapleton's trial and was surprised to hear about a plea deal.

â??Quite frankly, I believe she deserved to be completely acquitted. I believe that the psychiatric evaluation findings are strong enough to have gotten Kelly acquitted. So, yes, I was disappointed that we didn't go forward and have the trial.â??

Even though Stapleton faces life in prison, Lieberman hopes she will receive the minimum sentence.

â??Keeping Kelly in jail, not only will that not help her with her psychiatric problems, but it won't help her familyâ??especially her children to not have their mother.â??

Stapleton's family members say they want justice for Issy, releasing this statement:

"Isabelle Stapleton's extended family is confident that the justice system will provide a sentence that reflects the value of Issy's life. They are grateful for every day that Issy is alive and they appreciate the prayers and support of the community during this difficult year."

Lieberman says Stapleton has been an advocate for families dealing with autism. She hopes Stapleton's story will motivate them to get help.

â??I am hoping that as tragic as this case is, that it will at least have a bright side which is to get people, to get society, to pay attention to this increasing epidemic of not only children who are autistic, but children who are so severely autistic that their parents live in fear for their lives every single day. There are many mothers, many families that are living on the edge right now because they are going through the same having to deal with children who are as violent as Issy.â??

In August, TV show host Dr. Phil McGraw sat down with Stapleton in Jail.

The interview is scheduled to air during his show Wednesday, September 10. You can hear more of Dr. Lieberman's research the following day on the Dr. Phil show.