Grandmother prepares letter for sentencing of Anthony and Marsha Springer:
What would Calista say?
April 15, 2010
Rex Hall Jr. | Kalamazoo Gazette By Rex Hall Jr. | Kalamazoo Gazette

FABIUS TOWNSHIP — If she can muster the strength and is given the chance to speak, Suzanne Langdon knows exactly what she’ll say inside a St. Joseph County courtroom on Friday.

Calista SpringerView full sizePhoto Courtesy of Suzanne LangdonThis photo taken in June of 2005 and provided by Calista Springer's grandmother, Suzanne Langdon, shows Calista Springer, at a party for her grandmother's 65th birthday.
It’s what she believes her granddaughter, Calista Springer, would say if she was alive.

“My soul is free, I will never have chains put on me again,” Langdon said, reciting from a letter she drafted for the sentencings of her son and daughter-in-law, Anthony and Marsha Springer.

“Whenever someone stops at my memorial site, I am there. I am here today, I helped seat the jury in Kalamazoo and brought them back here for the verdict. I wanted you two to be near where such hideous things were done to me.

“I do not hate you. I love you and forgive you, but I deplore what you did to me.”

Langdon signed Calista’s name to the hand-written letter.

Jurors reached a verdict late Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Anthony and Marsha Springer, who are charged with felony murder, child abuse and torture. The jury found them not guilty of felony murder, but guilty on the counts of first degree child abuse and torture.

Anthony and Marsha Springers, who remain jailed without bond, are to be sentenced at 1 p.m. Friday, nearly two months after a jury convicted them of torture and first-degree child abuse, but acquitted them of murder, in connection with a 2008 fire that killed Calista and destroyed the family’s Centreville home. Firefighters found Calista restrained to her bed with a dog choke chain after the flames were extinguished.

The Springers face up to life in prison for torture and 15 years for child abuse. St. Joseph County Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman, who presided over their trial, will hands down the sentences.

“He’s the one that’s got to weigh everything,” Langdon said of the judge. “That is, thank God, not my job.”

As of Wednesday, Langdon said she didn’t know if she’d be allowed to give a victim-impact statement at the sentencing. “If they let me say it,” she said, looking at the letter she prepared, “that’s what I will say.”

As she read from it, she fought tears and wondered aloud whether she’d be strong enough to recite it in the courtroom.

Since the verdicts were delivered Feb. 23, Langdon said she and her husband, Dan Langdon, have passed the time recounting the courtroom proceedings, including the eight days of testimony. Still fresh in their minds is the picture defense attorneys and their witnesses painted of Calista as a child who seldom smiled, was prone to fits of rage, and lied and stole.

That, they say, wasn’t the granddaughter they knew.

“We have 20 grandchildren, so I think we know babies,” Dan Langdon said. “I don’t think she was any different from the other kids. If you showed her love, she ate it up.”

Suzanne Langdon said she questions whether there was anything wrong with Calista at all, and struggles with regret that she didn’t do more to help her. She also wrestles with the vision of Calista chained to her bed.

“When I get to thinking about that it’s almost, even now, more than I can handle,” she said. “I can’t imagine what she must have felt.”

Said Dan Langdon: “The hardest thing I’ve dealt with is the thought that she might have died not knowing that anyone loved her.”

Suzanne Langdon said she first heard allegations that Calista was being restrained in 2004, but that Anthony Springer assured her that was not the case. She said she didn’t see Calista after 2006, because relations between the Langdons and Springers “had become very uncomfortable.”

Langdon said she’s been barred by the Springers from seeing Calista’s two younger sisters, who are currently with a foster family.

With the criminal case against the Springers coming to a close, the Michigan Department of Human Services may now be hit with a lawsuit over its handling of multiple complaints it received alleging Calista was being abused and neglected.

Suzanne Langdon was named personal representative for Calista’s estate in September and Southfied attorney Howard T. Linden has said the step was taken to create an estate, the only assets of which are expected to be proceeds from a lawsuit.

The Langdons declined to discuss any pending legal action. Their attorney, Greg Wix, an associate at a Southfield law firm headed by well-known lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, said Wednesday that while no suit has yet been filed, the firm is “investigating not only DHS but any of the many cracks that Calista fell through that led to her death.”

“What we typically do in a case like this that has a criminal component is we wait and let that process work itself out,” Wix said.

In the meantime, if she does speak at Friday’s sentencing, Suzanne Langdon said it will be for Calista.

“I am free and I am loved and I want all of you to know I am happy,” the last portion of her letter reads. “I even chase balloons across the heavens. Do not cry for me but do all you can to help children that are in need.”

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