Calista Marie Springer
May 22, 1991 - February 27, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial
Calista had told friend and teachers at school that was beaten and chained to her bed at night and was forced to use a bucket instead of the bathroom. She ate glue and water and didn't take a bath for days and she wore the same clothes over and over, sometimes for up to a week.

Friends, neighbors and even teachers tried for years to get help for her. They gave her food, they took her for showers and gave her clean clothing to wear. Reports showed that at least 15 complaints had been made on behalf of Calista:

"Someone needs to help her. Does she need to die before anyone listens" 
Sue Gest wrote in a 2004 letter to U.S. Rep. 
Fred Upton - R-St. Joseph

Fred Upton did contact the Michigan Department Of Human Services and was falsely told that Calista was being cared for in the proper way. Apparently, Sue Gest was correct, Calista DID have to die in  order for someone to pay attention.

Child Protective Services had warned Calista's father, Anthony and her stepmother, Marsha, NOT to tie Calista's to her bed, they even said "in case of fire". These two adults ignored the warnings and using a dog choke collar and zip ties, they changed her to her bed because they said they were tired of getting up every time the alarm went off to signal that she was leaving the house.

On her last night of life, Calista went to bed without sheets, blankets or a pillow, sleeping in a t-shirt and thin sweat pants. Calista was a special needs child, apparently living with parents who were not able to handle her. So they kept her tied to her bed, to control her at night. 

As it turns out, in 2004, a Sheriff's Deputy had been told that Calista's parents were tying her to the bed using a velcro strap and a dog chain. Deputy Dan Riggs had forwarded the case to The Michigan Department Of Human Services. A letter written in 2005 to a woman who had made a complaint similar to the one the Deputy had already forwarded, said that her complaint of abuse or neglect was not going to be investigated because it was similar to a complaint that they had already checked into.

It was reported that the woman, who had asked not to be identified, filed the complaint after her own daughter had shown her letters and pictures from Calista which told about and showed how she was tied up and chained to her bed. The letter she received back in June said:

"This notice is being sent to you to inform you that your complaint of child abuse or neglect has 
not been accepted for investigation. The reason is: The allegation was essentially the same 
instance as an allegation previously reported and investigated" 
Children's Protective Services Supervisor Cindy Bare

NOT investigating it again and putting a stop to it would have tragic results when on February 27, Calista, 16, was chained to her bed in her second floor bedroom when she died Feb. 27 in a fire that heavily damaged the Springers' house which would later be demolished.

In 1999, Marsha Springer went to court seeking a personal protection order against her husband, Anthony. Marsha told the judge that he had threatened her and often took his anger out on their three girls.
In a letter to the judge Marsha said:

"Tony never has a kind word to say to the girls and has never told them that he loves them. 
It's just constant yelling to shut p, get out of my way and get out of my sight" 

In her four page letter, Marsha said that her home life was dreary and that the atmosphere was one of anger and rage. She claimed that Anthony was a husband who bounced from job to job and spent the little bit of money the family had on his collections of model airplanes and Civil War memorabilia. Anthony suffered from Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and severe depression and Marsha said that he rarely took his Prozac and Ritalin which were prescribed to him:

"He doesn't see any need for counseling for himself or our marriage" 

Marsha asked the judge to prevent Anthony from threatening to kill or physically injure herself and the three children:

"My children and I need help getting out of this vicious cycle It is only a matter of time before 
the children and myself become the physical targets in these rages. The fact that I  am blind, 
having very limited sight in one eye I feel without a protection order in place Tony will do 
great bodily harm to me or my children" 

Marsha said that there were violent instances in the home where he had put his hand through a window in 1997 and then in 1998 he had ripped the phone out of the wall after an argument they were having about where to put a Christmas tree. In the letter she outlined times when Anthony would force her to have sex when she didn't want to and said that he had told her if she ever tried to leave, one of them would have to die. Marsha noted in the letter that Anthony collected road kill and would boil the meat off of the bones and then reconstruct the skeletons:

"This is not just a hobby, this has become an obsession with him. You can't have a conversation 
with him unless it has to do with this subject"

The Judge, Thomas Shumaker, granted the protection order on June 28. Two months later, at Marsha's request, the order was terminated. Marsha wrote another letter and said:

"There has been no problems. We are seeking counseling. The counselor feels that with the 
children we both need to be involved"

The protection order was terminated on August 20, 1999.

Records show that in 1997, Norma Swegles, the biological mother of Calista, had tried to get custody of her. Norma had not been involved in the life of Calista since she was an infant. In custody papers she claimed that Calista was malnourished and that she had been abused. Anthony denied the claims and a month later filed papers to have Norma's parental rights terminated totally. A judge ruled in favor of Anthony and in May of 1997, Calista was placed in his home as an adoptee. 

Ten years later, Calista died in a fire while chained to her bed. Trever Slater, the Trooper who had been there and assisted the investigators from the fire department said that he had seen Calista's body, in the bed, with a dog collar around her wasted and she was tied to the bed railing with plastic ties:

"I don't believe a person could actually break free of that on their own power"

Anthony and Marsha's other two children were taken away from them and placed with family members. It was noted that though Calista had been sleeping in a bed with no sheets, blanket or even a pillow, the other two girls had sheets, pillows comforters on their beds.

A hearing was held to determine if Calista's sisters, who were 12 and 14 at the time, were going to remain in the temporary custody of family members. The result of the hearing could either be returning the children to their parents or terminating their parental rights out-right. The goal of the Michigan Department Of Human Services was to reunited the children with their parents. I guess they didn't so much care that these parents had abused and caused the death of one child already. They didn't care that Anthony had a bad temper and didn't pay much attention to his children other than to yell at them and tell them to shut up.

Annegret Remmert, a social services specialist with the Department Of Human Services said that the agency had been providing services to this family since 1995 due to a high lead content in the blood of Calista and one of her sisters. Counseling, transportation to doctors appointments and money was offered.

Anthony has admitted that the family has had at least five visits or contacts with child welfare workers, he says though, that his children have never been removed from their home, in the past. Anthony and Marsha both had nothing to say at the hearing. The outcome and further hearings were postponed in April of 2008, until May of 2008.

Judge Thomas E. Shumaker said there needed to be done before a decision could be made:

"I understand that as time passes, it raises anxieties and emotions. But, sometimes it's necessary"

The judge also ordered that the remaining children would have supervised visits with their parents, during two hour, weekly visits:

"Unsupervised is not a good idea at this point" 

In August of 2008, Marsha Springer plead no contest to charges of child abuse and child neglect. This plea was to be considered separate from charges she could face in the death of Calista. After her plea, her two other children became temporary wards of the state. That took care of the need for a trial to determine what would happen to the two girls.

Judge Shumaker ruled that there was enough evidence to support the claims that the Springer home is an unfit place for children to live. A picture of Calista, in her bed, after the fire, was shown to the judge as well as transcripts of testimony from a State Trooper:

"At the time of the fire, Calista Springer was in the care of the mother, who is legally blind. 
Calista was chained to her bed and unable to escape the fire or to be rescued 
by fire and police personnel"
Court petition to remove the two remaining girls

The two sisters, who were not home when the fire happened had been removed from the home and placed with family. They had been moved to foster care and after court, the Family Court was given custody over them.

Pleading no contest meant that Marsha was not denying or admitting to charges that she abused or neglected Calista. Anthony continued to deny any allegations that he had abused and neglected his daughter at all. Police had already said that he was not home at the time of the fire, which was around 8:30 a.m.. Police are not sure if he knew that Calista was tied to the bed upstairs or how long she had been there. Anthony said that Calista was a special needs child and she had often wandered off in the middle of the night. The bed restraint was put in place, for a short time only, according to him, because an alarm that had been used to monitor Calista, was broken.

Michigan law says that if a court finds abuse and or neglect in the home, with even just one child, that is enough reason to remove any other children who live in the home even if it is found that only one of the parents was abusing or neglecting the child. The Judge set a court date of September 9 for dispositional hearing in which St.
Joseph County Department Of Human Services are expected to talk about services and other measures that are aimed at reuniting the family. The proceedings within the family court had no connection at all to criminal charges that could be filed against Anthony and Marsha in the death of Calista.

The cause of the fire was listed as unknown, though speculation has pointed to an overheated vacuum which was being used in the home shortly before the fire started. Marsha said she had been vacuuming when she smelled smoke. She stopped vacuuming and then started up again, when she again smelled smoke, she stopped and went into the kitchen. When she went back into the living room, she saw flames where she had left the vacuum. She says she went to the kitchen to get the fire extinguisher, but, she claims she couldn't remove the pin in order to make it work. By that point, the flames had become too intense and she had to leave the house. The police didn't find a fire extinguisher and reports show that Marsha told at least one person how she had tried to put out the fire with a pitcher of water and the vacuum blew up in her face.

Calista was found upstairs in her room, by firefighters who said she appeared to be small for her age. An autopsy showed that Calista had died with long hair on her legs and under her arms. There was a mark around her waist from the dog chain and she had soot in her esophagus and trachea, she had died of smoke inhalation.

In September of 2008, Anthony submitted a paper in which he told the court that there was no abuse or neglect when his daughter had died in the fire. He claimed that in 1997, a therapist had said that Calista would never develop judgment and impulse control. He also used a report from the state Children's Protective Services case worker who said that Calista had to be restrained in her room to prevent her from causing injury to herself and to others. The report claimed that she would destroy everything in her room and put nails and razor blade into her mouth.

In December of 2008, it was decided that Anthony and Marsha would face charges of manslaughter, and first degree child abuse. In January of 2009, the Prosecutor John, McDonough, who had taken the office on January 1, 2008 said that he brought the tougher charges after reviewing the case with his assistants and Detective Sergeant Mike Scott of the state police. The new charge will be felony murder and torture. If found guilty, they could both face lie in prison. The original charges were filed by Prosecutor Doug Fisher and the original charge
of first degree child abuse will stand:

"I think we just had different opinions on some of the evidence. Myself and the three 
assistant prosecutors, as well as Detective Scott agree on the charges that we brought 
yesterday afternoon"

It is going to be left up to a jury to decide the fate of Anthony and Marsha. They are both free on bond and are trying to regain custody of their other two girls. It is expected that lawyers will try to blame things on Calista by saying that she was a troubled child who had injured herself in the past, lied about how her parents had treated her and acted the way she did due to an eating disorder. Reports from some case workers are said to support these claims.

A letter sent from Chris Kadulski, director of the DHS, in response to the questions asked by Fred Upton, said that the department had been involved quite extensively with the family since 1995 and that Calista suffered from a disease known as Pica, which caused it's victims to crave and eat things other than normal foods:

"Most of the complaints we receive center around Calista's behavior caused by her disease 
and her parents' efforts to control her. It is our belief that Calista is cared for 
adequately by her parents; however, if we receive any new allegations of abuse 
and/or neglect, 
we will conduct an investigation" 

Fred Upton did nothing to check out the complaint he had received based on that letter from Chris. Police interviews state the frustrations of the people who had tried to help Calista when they contacted  school officials, police and social service agencies. The reports hint that the abuse Calista went through, started in the second grade:

People told police:

* Calista was forced to stand or sit in a square marked by tape in the living room; if she didn't, she was forced to place her nose on a piece of tape on a wall, sometimes having to stand on her tiptoes to reach it.

* She ate dinner sitting on the floor and, when fed, was given small portions. One friend said she was treated "lower than the animals." 

* Calista was rarely allowed outside of her home. When she was outdoors, she was often required to sit on her front porch with her head between her knees -- sometimes for more than an hour -- while her sisters and other children played nearby.

* Though teachers viewed Calista as a pretty normal girl, who could read and write, her parents said Calista was a special-needs child.

* Calista attended school outside of the home through sixth grade before her parents began teaching her at home. A police detective described the home schooling as a possible "ruse" to keep Calista "out of the public eye."

Preliminaries were set for March 24, 2009, for Anthony and Marsha.
Ironically, that is the same day I am finishing this page and loading
the story of Calista to my site.

UPDATE: Thank you to the person, who did not leave a name, who sent me this update.

Springers guilty of torture, abuse
Couple found not guilty on murder charges

Published : Tuesday, 23 Feb 2010

CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - The jury in the murder and child abuse trial of Marsha and Anthony Springer reached a verdict Tuesday afternoon. The Springers were found guilty of child abuse and torture, but are not guilty of the murder charges.

Anthony and Marsha Springer were tried on first-degree murder and Anthony faced an additional charge for second-degree murder.

Torture carries a sentence of up to life in prison and first-degree child abuse carries up to 15 years.

Judge Paul Stutesman revoked the Springers' bond and they were taken into custody. The couple is set to be sentenced April 16.

Marsha and Anthony Springer stood in the courtroom hugging for a few minutes before deputies led them out.

The couple's 16-year-old daughter, Calista, died chained to her bed when the house caught fire. The Springers contend they chained her to keep her safe at night because she was a troubled child.

The jury made its decision in St. Joseph County on the ninth day of deliberation. Last week, jurors told Stutesman they were deadlocked. 

Tony and Marsha Sentenced
Friday April 16, 2010

CENTREVILLE-- Anthony and Marsha Springer have been sentenced to long prison terms for chaining their troubled 16-year-old daughter to her bed. He got 10 years for child abuse and 25 to 50 years for the most serious charge, torture. She got a little less time, 8 to 15 years on the abuse count and 19 years minimum on the torture count.

The jury found them not guilty of felony murder. If they had it would have been mandatory life without parole. 

Judge Paul Stutesman gave Anthony Springer more time because he felt that he had come up with the idea of chaining her to the bed and implemented it.  The judge felt Marsha just went along with it.

The Judge noted it might never have come to this if social service agencies had done their job.   It might have all flown under the radar, after all it appeared as though child protective services and welfare agencies had signed off on the case.  But Calista Springer was chained to the bed when her house caught fire and it killed her.  An appeal is expected. 

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Death occurred in the state of Michigan

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