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Mom of autistic girl pleads guilty to child abuse

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A northern Michigan woman accused of trying to kill her autistic 14-year-old daughter after describing in an online blog the family’s struggles to raise her pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree child abuse.

Kelli Stapleton, 46, entered the plea the day before she was scheduled for trial in Benzie County Circuit Court on a charge of attempted murder, a year after police said she drove daughter Isabelle to an isolated spot, gave her sleep-inducing medication, and ignited charcoal in two grills inside a van, intending to kill both of them.

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Isabelle has recovered after suffering carbon-monoxide poisoning that left her in a coma for several days, county prosecutor Sara Swanson said.

‘‘This was an extremely serious incident, which could have resulted in the death of an innocent child,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘A conviction of this felony carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison, and the prison sentence we expect it to carry, is the right resolution for the community, the defendant, and our victim, Isabelle.’’

Stapleton had intended to offer an insanity plea if the case had gone to trial but wanted a quicker conclusion to the case, defense attorney Heidi Hodek said.

‘‘Ultimately, Kelli didn’t want to put her family through any more,’’ Hodek said.

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