Stapleton denied request to wear civilian clothes in pre-trial court proceedings
Kelli Stapleton, the mother accused of attempting to kill her teenage daughter and herself, was denied her request on Thursday to be able to appear at all court proceedings prior to trial, in civilian clothing and without restraints.
Stapleton's attorneys made the request because of the media attention that the case has gained. They argued that wearing the standard jail attire makes her appear guilty to potential jurors.
Benzie County Prosecutor, Sara Swanson, argued that allowing Stapleton to appear in civilian clothing and without restraints for all of her pre-trial court proceedings sends a message that all defendants should be allowed this priveledge. She also said it could also be a safety hazard.
"Of course I agreed that she has a right to wear civilian clothing at trial but not every stage up until then," said Swanson. "I do believe in the jury selection process and I believe when we go to pick a jury we will be able to find a group that is fair and unbiased."
The judge, Hon. John D. Meade, said that while he could not speak for the trial court and the circuit judge, that there have been other high profile cases where defendants were required to wear jail attire and remain in restraints. Meade denied the motion, saying that there is no other case out there allowing this.
Kelli Stapleton, 45, is accused of trying to kill her daughter, Isabelle, and herself on September 3rd. Investigators said Stapleton took her daughter to a remote area and placed two burning charcoal grills inside the family van. When deputies located the van, both were unconscious and taken to the hospital.
Isabelle has been released from the hospital and is home with her father, Matt Stapleton.
According to court documents, Detective Rick Sekely from Michigan State Police testified in court on September 4th for an authorization of complaint and warrant hearing before District Judge John D. Mead in Beulah. Sekely says that while Kelli Stapleton was in the hospital, she made multiple statements to Munson Emergency Room personnel.
"...that she intended to kill her daughter and commit suicide and it was basically because of all of the years of frustration with their daughter's autism and her behavior," said Sekely.
Sekely goes on to explain that the daughter, Isabelle Stapleton, suffers from violent tendencies that are related to her autism and that she has assaulted Kelli in the past.
"...kind of at her wit's end and though this would be the best solution for the family, her husband and her other two kids at home, was that if Issy and her went to heaven," said Sekely.
Court documents reveal that Sekely told the court that State Police Detective Sergeant Denise Bentley was also at the hospital and that Kelli had also made some unsolicited statements to her.
"...she was able to lure her into this situation by telling Isabelle that they were going to go camping, that they were going to cook some s'mores," said Sekely.
Court documents show that Kelli admitted to giving Isabelle a four pills of risperdal, medicine that helps her sleep and is used for her problems with autism. Court documents show that Isabelle normally takes two and a half pills a day.
"Once Isabelle fell asleep, Mom moved the charcoal grills into the vehicle, got into the vehicle with Isabelle, closed the doors and windows," said Sekely in court documents.
Sekely explains that Kelli got in and out of the car multiple times to put more charcoal on the grills, and that because the doors were open periodically, that it may be the only reason that either one of them are alive.
Kelli Stapleton was expected in court on Thursday afternoon for attempted homicide charges. That date has been rescheduled, and a hearing for a motion of competency is scheduled for October 10th at 2pm.
The rescheduled hearing on a neglect-abuse petition filed by the Department of Human Services has been set for October 4th at 3:30pm.