date of testimony: January 16th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
testimony given by her mother Donna Markham in her mother’s words
THE COURT: Thank you. And you are the mother?
MS. MARKHAM: I’m the mother of Chelsey Markham.
THE COURT: Okay. And you’re reading her statement?
No. She couldn’t be with us today but I’m going to be telling you from a victim’s mother’s point of view what our life has been like since her abuse from Larry Nassar, but I first wanted to tell you that my daughter was adopted from South Korea and I got a call from our social worker that wanted to know if we would be willing to take a baby that had some medical issues in August of 1985, and we said, yes, and at that time she — we picked her up at the airport and she had a fractured skull and she — both of her ears were damaged. She was delivered in a hospital using forceps and she required several surgeries, but for a whole year I sat up with this baby at night because she couldn’t lay down, and the bond that came from her and I was just inseparable. We did everything together as she continued to grow up.
Her childhood was a normal childhood and she wouldn’t leave my side, and I needed to get her to be social with other kids so I enrolled her in Montessori, and for a whole week she screamed like a pig being cut because she thought I was leaving her, and finally on the fifth day she said, mommy, I know you’ll be back. I said, yes, I will.
I’m sorry. During her normal childhood she, you know, wanted to do all the activities that all her little friends did, and we had these Saturday morning classes and the gymboree and the whatever, swim lessons, and so she really caught on to gymnastics, and she was enrolled at Artistic Gymnastics Academy in Roseville, Michigan, and her Saturday morning hour classes turned into several times a week, and then the coaches asked her if she would like to join team and I said, well, it’s going to be her decision but she needed to understand the requirements and that she needed to understand the commitment of what it meant and the dedication, and she said, yes, this is what she wanted to do.
Well, that became five days a week, sometimes six, and she was made — she went to team really quick because she was really good.
However, during — she took a fall off of the beam and she injured her lower back and I asked our coach, I said, who should we go see? And at this time she was ten years old. And so — and this was in 1995. And so they said, you know, go — they referred us to Larry Nassar, and I said, okay.
Well, at the time we really didn’t know, you know, much about him other than his medical reputation, so we went to see him and we traveled all the way from the east side of Michigan to Lansing, you know, several times a month for treatment.
The last time that we went to treatment she was at that time 12 years old, and we had this thing, her and I, that we would, after her doctor visit, we would go to this little cafe in East Lansing and have lunch and enjoy each other for a while before we had that long drive back home, and so we got in the car — and I had been in the room with her during her examination, as usual, and I said, are you ready to go to lunch and she’s, like, no, mom, I just want to go home. And I said, what’s wrong? Are you in pain? And she said, mom, I just want to go home. And I said, okay.
So we got in the car and I said — and she started bawling and I said, Chelsey, tell me what’s wrong. And she said, mom, he put his fingers in me and they weren’t gloved, and I said, Chelsey, I was right there in the room, and she goes, you couldn’t see what was going on, mom. And she said, he hurt me. And I said, Chelsey, we’re going back right now.
And I — I mean, I was literally going to drive across the median on 96, and she said, mom, please don’t do that. I said, why? And she said, because you don’t understand, everybody will know, and everybody will judge me, and the judges will know when I compete, and I said, Chelsey, I can’t do that, I have to go back. Mom, please, we’ll just find another doctor, and she begged me, and she was hysterical. And I said, okay. You know, I said, I’ll talk to your dad about it, but I may end up going back, Chels.
So she went back to the gym the next day and I told her coach — his name was Tim, and I told Tim about it, and he said, oh, no, that couldn’t have happened. I’ve known Larry for years. And I said, well, Tim, it did happen. So I told him I just wanted him to know what had happened. So when I went into the balcony and was sitting with the rest of the moms, I said, You know, did any of your girls see Larry Nassar for treatment and a couple of them said, yes, and they said — I said, did anything — did they ever say anything about unusual behavior on his part? And they said, well, no. You know, they give me this look like you’re lying to me, but anyways, that was neither here nor there at the time because they weren’t going to say anything.
So we started a path of destruction, and her path of destruction was — she was doing horrible in school. She had this self loathing. I had her see a psychiatrist and it didn’t seem to be helping. There was a lot of self blame. She had managed to get through — she had quit gymnastics the following year when she was 13 because she went to a meet here in Lansing at Twistars, I believe it was, and he was there and she fell off of every apparatus, she did horrible, and she said, I can’t do this anymore because every time I see him I just flash back to what happened in his office.
She made bad decisions. It affected her social life. She started running with bad crowds. She got into drugs and she never really recovered.
The person that was my best friend, we used to do everything together, we would watch movies, we both loved movies — as a matter of fact, I hate to admit it but on a rainy day we went to see four movies and only paid for one, but we would bake cookies together, and she loved the holidays, and she would decorate the house and I didn’t have to do anything. She just kind of, like, took over.
So she did come out of it a little bit.
She had suffered a rape at a concert, that was another thing that compounded her issues. I think the thing that her — the worst part for her was that this was a man that was supposed to be the best in his field. He was supposed to help her. He was supposed to help her heal. But he didn’t. He abused her. He sexually abused her, and he had the audacity to do that while I was sitting right there in the room.
I know that the other girls have similar stories. We all have the same story, but for my daughter it just became a serious, serious bought of depression, and so in 2009 she took her own life because she couldn’t deal with the pain anymore, and it will be ten years in March that I lost my baby.
She was 23 years old. She would have been 33 now. And every day I miss her. Every day. And it all started with him. It all started with him. It just became worse as the years went by until she couldn’t deal with it anymore.
And you don’t know what it’s like to be at work and get a call to come home immediately, and you know, a mother’s instinct tells you something is wrong, and you pull up in your driveway and the medical examiner is there and your daughter is in a body bag and they’re loading her into the van.
It has destroyed our family. We used to be so close. My husband and I — I went through four years of intense therapy trying to deal with all of this until I could finally accept the fact that this was not my fault. It was the fault of Larry Nassar that started all this with my daughter, and as you can see, she turned into a beautiful young lady who was really, really sick. And that’s my story for her.
THE COURT: Ma’am, I am so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter. I know she’s with you now and proud of your words on her behalf.
MS. MARKHAM: I thought it was the last thing I could do for her. The very last thing.
THE COURT: And you did it so very well.
Suicide is never the answer but trying to escape something like what your daughter went through is difficult. I know that you tried and she knows that you tried, but some things can’t be undone, and that’s why we’re here.
Some day you’ll be reunited with your beautiful daughter. I am sure she will thank you but I am sure she’s hugging you right now.
MS. MARKHAM: I hope so.
THE COURT: I can see it, ma’am. So thank you very much for being here.
MS. MARKHAM: Thank you, Your Honor.