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Lawyer can’t drop case of mom of autistic teen

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.”

Michigan man pleads guilty to 1987 murder

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A Pontiac man charged in a nearly 27-year-old murder has pleaded guilty to a lesser count of second-degree murder.

Robert Simpson entered the plea this week. The 45-year-old was arrested in September and charged with first-degree murder in the 1987 shooting of a man. Thirty-three-year-old Isaiah Turner was found with multiple gunshot wounds in a Pontiac park. A tip led detectives to reopen the case.

Simpson also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.

His sentencing is scheduled for September.

Appeals court reinstates ‘77 murder conviction

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has overturned a decision by a Van Buren County judge and reinstated the murder conviction of a man who has been in prison for nearly 40 years.

In 1977, Leo Terlisner was convicted of killing a business owner in Covert in southwestern Michigan under a felony murder doctrine that was abolished by the state Supreme Court in 1980.

Decades later, Terlisner's attorney successfully argued that his conviction should be thrown out. But the appeals court says the change in law three years after trial can't be applied retroactively.

The 3-0 decision was released Wednesday.

The 66-year-old Terlisner is serving a no-parole sentence at a prison in Muskegon Heights.

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