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Story of daughter with autism and mother hits close to home for local family
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Newschannel 3 is hearing from a family who says a tragic attempted murder-suicide hits too close to home.
State Police say on Tuesday, 45-year-old Kelli Stapleton tried to kill herself and her 14-year-old daughter Isabelle--or Issy.
Deputies found the pair inside a van in Benzie County, unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning.
It happened just days after Stapleton picked her daughter up from an autism treatment program in Portage.
Issy has a rare form of autism that makes her prone to very violent outbursts.
On Thursday, Newschannel 3 met a family that knows the situation all too well.
The news has been heartbreaking for the Macaulay family.
They have also feared the violence of their own child living with autism, who was in the same program Issy was.
"It just feels like I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders every day," said father Allan Macaulay. "The job, the children, the farm--I am laying on the ground and there is a 400 pound medicine ball 24-7 that's crushing me, and she's going through the same thing."
Allan and his wife Jessica Macaulay tell Newschannel 3 that the Great Lakes Treatment Center in Portage changed their son's life.
"It's just very conflicting," Allan said. "Like when I had to take John Anthony to the center, I felt so relieved, and then I felt guilty for feeling so relieved."
But the family still faces challenges many will never know.
"It's daily stress, and you feel a range of emotion," Jessica said. "You feel proud of the little things and embarrassment for all the inappropriate stuff they do, and you feel isolated from other people."
The Macaulays say they understand how Kelli Stapleton may have reached a breaking point.
"It sounded so familiar and so heartbreaking," Allan said. "I remember Jessica saying that; I remember Jessica saying that just three days ago."
"There's been so many days I just plastered a smile on my face, everything is fine, I'm good, and underneath, I am like, 'why did I have to wake up today?'" Jessica said.
11-year-old John Anthony and Issy knew each other well. Both were treated for violence associated with their autism in Portage.
Jessica says Kelli often looked out for her son when she could, and made many sacrifices for her own daughter.
"I know Kelli was proud of her," Jessica said. "She drove down here almost every day to do training with her and Kelli put 100 percent effort in."
The Macaulays relocated from the U.P. to help John Anthony get the treatment he needs, but say if it weren't for that decision, their story could be similar to the Stapletons.
On Thursday Issy's father, Matt Stapleton, posted on Facebook, saying in part:
"We ask that you continue to keep the focus on Isabelle's recovery and not necessarily on the events that have brought us to this unfortunate fight for her life.
Newschannel 3 has been told that Kelli Stapleton has been transferred to the Benzie County Jail and is expected to be charged with attempted murder on Friday.
According to her father, Issy remains in the critical intensive care unit at DeVos Children's Hospital.
We previously sat down with the Stapletons in February. That story can be viewed here.