Lawyer can't drop case of mom of autistic teen

August 27, 2014 - 1:04 PM
Murder Attempt Autistic Daughter

FILE - This undated file booking photo provided by the Benzie County Sheriff shows Kelli Stapleton. Lawyers representing Stapleton, who is accused of trying to kill her autistic daughter, have asked to withdraw from the case. But the Traverse City Record-Eagle says a judge denied the request on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Benzie County Sheriff, File)

BEULAH, Mich. (AP) — A defense lawyer has been ordered to stay on the case of a Michigan woman accused of trying to kill her autistic daughter, despite a "total breakdown" in their relationship.

Benzie County Judge James Batzer turned down a request by Heidi Hodek to stop representing Kelli Stapleton, who goes to trial Sept. 3 in northern Michigan.

"If (Stapleton) wanted to fire the attorneys, she could. Otherwise he wasn't letting them off the case," prosecutor Sara Swanson said in an interview Wednesday. "There was no indication she wanted them off the case."

Hodek has been defending Stapleton with another lawyer from her firm.

Stapleton, 46, is accused of trying to kill herself and her teenage daughter last year with carbon monoxide by igniting charcoal grills inside a van. Isabelle, 14 at the time, has severe autism and sometimes had violent outbursts.

Stapleton's blog had chronicled the challenges her family faced while caring for her.

In a court filing, Hodek said Stapleton has "become increasingly hostile" and has accused the lawyer of "not having her interests at heart."

Letters written by Stapleton with inaccurate information have been seized by jail staff and are potentially damaging to her defense, Hodek said.

"There has been a complete and total breakdown in the attorney-client relationship in this case," said Hodek, who added that she can't provide "detached and objective legal advice."