Kelli Stapleton enters guilty plea on child abuse charges, avoids trial

BENZIE COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Battle Creek native, accused of attempting to kill herself and her teenage daughter who has autism, could spend life in prison.

Tuesday, 46-year-old Kelli Stapleton of Benzie County pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse.

The decision comes nearly one year to the day after police say Stapleton locked herself and her daughter Issy inside the family's van with two lit charcoal grills.

Her trial was supposed to start Wednesday in Benzie County, but the guilty plea means there won't be a trial, and all other charges, including attempted murder, will be dropped.

The story made international headlines last September, after Kelli and Issy were found unconscious in their van, and rushed to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Back in February of 2013, Stapleton spoke to Newschannel 3 about the struggles of having a daughter with a severe form of autism.

At the time, she said Issy often had violent outbursts, and claimed the girl would beat her unconscious.

Issy was placed in the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research in Portage, a residential facility for children with extreme behavioral problems.

But it wasn't long after she returned home that police say Stapleton tried to kill herself and her daughter.

Just weeks later, Stapleton told Newschannel 3 that she was thankful her daughter survived, and that she hoped she would get a fair trial.

But with her guilty plea Tuesday, her fate is now in the hands of a judge.

Newschannel 3 spoke with Issy after the attempt on her life; she is recovering well at home, and continuing her treatment.

With no minimum sentencing in her case, Stapleton could face life behind bars, or she could get off with time served.

No sentencing date has been set.