The sister of a man who pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend and burying her in the backyard thinks he should be required each year on the anniversary of his girlfriend’s death to repeatedly watch a video of her body being exhumed.
Pam Steely, David Callaghan’s sister, also suggested during Callaghan’s sentencing Monday that he be forced to dig a hole in the prison yard and sleep in it.
“So maybe every year he is reminded,” Steely said, fighting tears. “He has no remorse about killing her.”
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison Breaux didn’t adopt Steely’s unconventional suggestions but did sentence Callaghan to life in prison with possible parole after 18 years. This was three years more than the minimum he faced.
Callaghan, 53, pleaded guilty March 27 to murder, tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and domestic violence.
Callaghan is accused of beating his girlfriend Martha “Robin” Freitag, 54, to death last summer, burying her body in a fire pit behind her house in the 600 block of Crouse Street in Akron, and burning her belongings in the fire pit.
Family and friends blanketed the neighborhood with flyers asking for help finding Freitag, who had been missing since late July. Her body was discovered and exhumed in mid-September.
During Callaghan’s sentencing, Freitag’s family members detailed the negative impact Callaghan had on her life. Callaghan and Freitag dated for 18 years.
Amy Freitag, Robin’s daughter, said she’ll never be able to repair the relationship she had with her mother that went south because of Callaghan. She urged Breaux to impose the maximum possible sentence.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be out in the world with somebody like this,” she said. “He’s a predator to everybody.”
Angela Nottingham, Robin’s cousin, said Callaghan tried to make the family believe Robin was still alive — including by impersonating her on Facebook — but didn’t want to see them. Nottingham helped figure out where Freitag was buried when she found a charred page from Freitag’s Bible in the fire pit.
“She would never allow someone to burn her Bible,” Nottingham said. “I just want everyone to know how beautiful of a person she was and that’s what he took away from us.”
Steely said members of her family joined Freitag’s loved ones in the search for Freitag. She apologized to Freitag’s family for her brother’s actions.
“Robin had an awesome heart and she loved everybody to a fault,” Steely said. “Her biggest problem was she thought she could fix my brother and it just led to her demise.”
Steely said she loves her brother and forgives him, though she is worried about his soul.
Assistant Prosecutor Greg Peacock said Robin Freitag had schizophrenia and could easily be taken advantage of. He said she called police on the evening she was killed and wasn’t making much sense. Still, he said, Freitag’s mental health challenges didn’t give Callaghan license to kill her.
“All he had to do was move out,” Peacock said.
Peacock said Callaghan forged Freitag’s signature on a rent check, continuing the ruse that she was still alive. He urged Breaux to impose an additional four years in prison on top of the mandatory 15-years-to-life for the murder charge to recognize the “torture” her family endured.
Kirk Migdal, Callaghan’s attorney, said his investigation found unflattering information about Freitag that could have been used in Callaghan’s defense.
“He did not want to do that,” Migdal said. “That was his decision — not to disparage anything about her or her reputation.”
Callaghan, who has a long history of drug offenses, said his and Freitag’s addictions “got the best of us.”
“I am so sorry for what I did,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m not a vicious person. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.