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Burned at the Stake

January 31, 2010 permalink

Child Protective Services in Michigan placed Calista for adoption with Marsha and Anthony Springer. This week CPS investigator Patricia Skelding testified that before Calista's adoption was complete, CPS knew about the Springers' practice of chaining the girl to a bed. CPS ignored the abuse and finalized the adoption. Four years later sixteen-year-old Calista Springer was incinerated in a fire while chained to her bed.

Though there is no chance of real accountability, CPS is clearly responsible for the death of this child.

A news article is enclosed below. The corroborating testimony of Marilyn Lafler is on YouTube or our local copy (flv).



Day Three in Springer murder Trial: CPS worker testifies the county knew Calista was chained in '04

Thu January 28, 2010

Calista Springer

KALAMAZOO--Shocking testimony revealed today in the murder trial of Calista Springer.

According to a former Child Protective Services investigator of 18 years, Patricia Skelding, St. Joseph County was aware that Calista was being chained to her bed before they closed the case back in 2004.

During the investigation into those allegations of abuse in the Springer home Calista had reported that she was being restrained to her bed by a chain.

“I believed and trusted the people in my office and community mental health that they knew what they were doing when they diagnosed her and that the overall end was that she needed to be protected, she needed to be safe, and she needed to be restrained and that the parents couldn’t be up 24 hours a day supervising her,” said Skelding.

“And so it was accepted that everyone knew that and so during my investigation when my supervisor handed me the referral she didn’t say anything about the part of Calista being chained to her bed, as if we’d already known that.”

Skelding became involved in the case after allegations surfaced that Calista reported she was not only restrained to her bed but was also being under fed, unable to use the restroom at night, forced to clean her mess if she did soil the mattress and even claimed her mother had once awaken her after she fell asleep while reading by pulling her hair with such force that it left a bald spot.

These claims were later found to be unsubstantiated and the case was closed.

The trial continued into the afternoon, hearing testimony from Calista’s teachers and educational professionals indicating that she was performing at grade level, despite being two years older than most of the students in her grade.

Several witnesses portrayed Calista as a quiet child, somewhat introverted, but eager to please and be praised. There was testimony that although there were some behavioral issues, mostly regarding petty theft or touching other student’s items, nothing was highly abnormal for a child her age at that time.

In regards to the stealing, Calista’s 5th grade English and social studies teacher, Stacy Sheehan, indicated that she was both open and honest about her wrongdoings when confronted and was “very willing to give items back.”

The prosecution seemed to end the day on a high note with the introduction of a 6th grade writing assignment of Calista’s from 2005. Peggy Roach, a 6th grade teacher at Centerville Elementary, testified that as part of the first day of class she gives her students five minutes to write a journal entry about themselves, telling the students that it would only be seen by her.

Calista wrote the following to Roach:

“I have a problem with stealing and lying. My birthday is May 22. I live in the Vincent house across the courthouse and diagonal to the Baptist church. I have a relative that was in your homeroom. I have two sisters, Courtney and Heather, two cats and a dog.”

To which, Roach responded, “who’s your relative who’s in my homeroom. Thank you for being honest about stealing and telling lies. That is the first step to working on your problem. If you need to talk to someone let me know.”

Calista responded, “…I have problems with my family and I miss my old school. I’m tired of my family and I feel like doing these things; runaway, kill myself and hide, throw all the boys out of the school except TJ and Josh. I cannot stand my family at all. I need some time alone from my family. I need to talk to someone. I want to get out of this prison at home. I want to be free instead of being in a prison. I want to be free as possible like any other teenager.”

It was this response which may have been very telling of her state of mind back in 2005.

Testimony will continue tomorrow as Calista’s closest friends are expected to take the stand.

Source: WKZO AM 590 Kalamazoo

Addendum: Two years later the state, through its courts, excuses itself from responsibility in the Springer death. In the news article below, there is no mention of the adoption. The article makes it look like social services was never involved in the girl's life, and the real parents killed her.



Calista Springer's estate can't sue state workers for her death, court rules

Calista Springer
This photo taken in June 2005 and provided by Calista Springer's grandmother, Suzanne Langdon, shows Calista at a party for her grandmother's 65th birthday.
Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Langdon

CENTREVILLE -- The family of Calista Springer cannot sue the state for her death, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Springer's grandmother, Suzanne Langdon, acting as a representative of Calista's estate, sued the Michigan Department of Human Services and St. Joseph County Child Protective Services in October 2010, asserting that state workers failed to protect Calista from her parents, which resulted in her death.

Calista was 16 when she was found chained to her bed in an upstairs room in her family's Centreville home following a February 2008 house fire.

The appeals court combined Springer's case with that of Nicholas Daniel Braman, whose estate also sued child protective services workers after Braman's father killed Nicholas, himself and his wife in October 2007 in Montcalm County. In both cases, the court ruled that the children's estates could not sue state workers for allegedly improperly acting upon allegations of abuse.

Read the 11-page opinion issued Thursday here.

"Although plaintiffs recited several failures by the employee defendants to comply with their official CPS investigation policies and guidelines, these failures merely prove the state's failure to act, not that it was acting pursuant to a mandatory policy of inaction," the appeals court ruling says.

"Plaintiffs do not point to any official policy or custom that mandated CPS investigators to improperly investigate the abuse allegations against the decedents' parents or to fail to protect the decedents," the opinion reads.

State workers found "insufficient evidence" to substantiate allegations made against Springer's and Braman's parents, and had no basis to remove the children from their homes, according to the court.

"While the facts of these cases are indeed tragic, this is not an appropriate case in which to impose a damage remedy on the state for a state constitutional due process violation, as no violation can be established," the opinion says.

Calista's grandmother filed three separate lawsuits in October 2010, one in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, one in the state Court of Claims in Lansing, and a third in St. Joseph County Circuit Court. Each demand jury trials and seek awards “in excess of $75,000.”

The court filings provided information from Michigan State Police records about abuse and neglect complaints that Langdon said were filed by family members, teachers, a mental-health worker, friends and acquaintances.

The suits claimed St. Joseph County protective services caseworker Patricia Skelding and supervisor Cynthia Bare failed to adequately respond to documented abuse from Calista's parents, Anthony and Marsha Springer. Langdon's federal suit also named as defendants former state DHS director Marianna Udow; her chief deputy, Laura Champagne; and former state manager of DHS Child Protective Services programs Ted Forrest.

A jury in February 2010 found Anthony and Marsha Springer guilty of torture and child abuse in Calista's death. They were each sentenced to prison terms.

Allegations of abuse and neglect against the Springers began in April 1995 and included accusations of lead poisoning, untreated burns, physical and emotional abuse, restraint by ropes, and being locked in her bedroom.

Source: MLive

Another year later, a federal court further clears the child protectors.



Court: Child welfare workers cannot be sued in Springer case

Child welfare workers cannot be sued in the death of a Centreville teen who died in a 2008 fire, even if they knew she was regularly tied to her bed by her parents, a federal appeals court said.

Centreville -- Child welfare workers cannot be sued in the death of a Centreville teen who died in a 2008 fire, even if they knew she was regularly tied to her bed by her parents, a federal appeals court said.

A three-judge panel said the Department of Human Services clearly had contact with the girl and her parents long before the “undeniably tragic” death.

But the court said Calista Springer’s civil rights weren’t violated merely because state workers failed to remove her from her St. Joseph County home.

The lawsuit was filed by the 17-year-old’s grandmother on behalf of her estate. Calista died during an accidental fire while being restrained to her bed in February 2008.

Her father, Anthony Springer, and stepmother, Marsha Springer, were cleared of murder but are serving long prison sentences for torture and child abuse. The Springers were convicted in 2010. They appealed the convictions, but the decisions were upheld in September 2012 by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The Springers said they tied Calista to her bed to prevent her from hurting herself or others.

The state had received many abuse complaints, starting in 1995. The use of restraints was reported by a teacher, deputy and a neighbor in 2004, but the investigation was ultimately closed.

A caseworker, Patricia Skelding, was uncomfortable and said she could “only hope” that the restraints were necessary. The state’s last contact was in 2005.

In her lawsuit, Langdon said Calista would have survived if she had been protected from abuse. But the appeals court said Michigan is not obligated under due process rights to protect citizens from other citizens.

“This, of course, means that there may be no recourse against the government in circumstances as tragic as those presented here,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said last week, affirming a similar decision by a federal judge in Grand Rapids.

Source: Cheboygan Daily Tribune

From other sources, the real parents of Calista were Anthony Springer and Norma Swegles. Anthony left Norma, taking their daughter against her will. Later Calista was adopted by Anthony and his new partner, Marsha Springer. Michigan DHS had contact with the family prior to the adoption.

burned at the stake