In the courtroom, Athina Siringas was a force to be reckoned with, a fierce and fearless advocate for crime victims and their families who relied on the passionate and focused prosecutor to deliver them justice — which she did for two decades.
Siringas, a longtime assistant prosecutor at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office who put away killers and rapists and also handled the historic perjury case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, died Friday following a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 63.
At her bedside were her husband and daughter, Kalli Siringas, who wants the world to remember her mother as a generous, loving and driven woman who dedicated her life to helping others. Her mom worked tirelessly up until the end, she said, noting Athina Siringas took work calls from her bed during her illness, passionately discussing criminal cases with police officers and inquiring about the status of various cases.
“She never wanted to focus on her illness, she was only concerned with life and living,” Kalli Siringas said through tears. “She never wanted to stop working … she didn’t know how to do that. She loved her work. That was a part of her well-being.”
Siringas was the chief of the Special Prosecutions Divisions, which included the homicide and major drug units, community prosecutions and violent crimes. She joined the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in 2001, when Mayor Mike Duggan was the prosecutor, and quickly rose through the ranks.
“There are people who come into your life from time to time that from the moment you meet them they will have significant impact. Athina was definitely one of them,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement Friday. “She was the epitome of a strong, successful woman: smart, opinionated, passionate, principled and fearless.”
Worthy added: “Athina was a fabulous mom, a loving wife, a hell of a lawyer and advocate, and an all around grand person.”
Over the years in the prosecutor’s office, Siringas established herself as an aggressive trial attorney and dogged pursuer of justice.
Her most high-profile case as a prosecutor came in 2008: the text messaging scandal that drove Kilpatrick from office and landed him behind bars.
Between 2008 and 2010, Siringas was a member of the prosecution team that
investigated, charged and convicted Kilpatrick and his Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, both of whom lied about their affair and their roles in the firing of a deputy police chief in a whistleblower lawsuit.
More than a decade earlier, however, Siringas made national headlines from her days as a defense lawyer, when she represented Toni Cato Riggs, a Michigan widow who was convicted in 1994 of plotting the murder of her soldier husband days after he returned from the Gulf War in order to collect his life insurance policy. She got life without parole.
That case was tried in Detroit, where Siringas found herself going up against then-Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who years later would become her boss.
Worthy watched admirably as Siringas took on some of the most horrific and violent cases, yet through it all she remained an optimist, family said. And she almost always had a smile on her face.
“She covered horrific things, but was still optimistic,” Kalli Siringas said. “She just saw the best in people.”
Siringas was born in Greece and moved to the U.S. as a child. Her parents immigrated to Detroit, a city she grew to love and embrace, defending it to anyone who dared put it down.
“She loved the city so much and loved working there,” Kalli Siringas said. “If anyone ever talked badly about Detroit, she always corrected them and would say that wasn’t true.”
Siringas attended Wayne State University, where she met her husband, Nickolaos Siringas, at what was known as the Greek Orthodox Club. Her husband also immigrated from Greece. He was an island boy, she was a mountain girl. The two were married for 34 years, and embraced their Greek heritage together, attending scores of baptisms and weddings at St. Nicholas in Troy over the years.
“They really were very much in love,” said Kalli Siringas, who got married over the summer. “They modeled what a loving relationship is for me, and for my husband.”
Siringas attended Wayne State University School of Law and graduated cum laude in
1983. She was in private practice for years with the law firm of Bell and Gardner, and then Gardner and Siringas. While in private practice, she was a chief litigator, handling many areas of law, including criminal, personal injury and commercial litigation.
In her years at the prosecutor’s office, she handled many high-profile prosecutions, including the porch shooting case of Theodore Wafer, a Dearborn Heights man who is serving a 15- to 30-year prison sentence for killing an unarmed woman, Renisha McBride, on his porch in the middle of the night in 2014.
” I thought very highly of her … She was always very well prepared, professional, and was an excellent advocate for crime victims, and I think was well respected by opposing counsel and well regarded by judges on our bench,” said Wayne County Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Kenny. “She died way too young, and still had a lot to offer to the community.”
“Whether she was at the the defense table or prosecution table, she gave it her all,” said former Detroit Free Press reporter Joe Swickard, who covered many of Siringas’s cases. “She wasn’t afraid of the big cases. She handled some of the toughest cases in Detroit’s criminal courts.”
Through it all, Kalli Siringas said, she remained a great mom, a great wife, a great friend to many.
“We’re pretty devastated, but we’ve had an outpouring of support and love,” Kalli Siringas said. “I feel lucky that she was loved by so many people.”
Siringas is survived by her husband, Nickolaos Siringas; a daughter, Kalli Siringas (Vinny Mraz). Sister Roula Tsaprailis, brother George Tsaprailis (Eleni), mother Fereniki Tsaprailis, and numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. She was predeceased in death by her father, Vasilios Tsaprailis.
Visitation services will be held 4-8 p.m. Monday, and 1- 8 p.m. Tuesday at A.J. Desmond & Sons, 32515 Woodward. A Trisagion will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 707 E. Lafayette St., Detroit. Visitation at the church begins at 10 a.m. Memorial tributes can be made to Karmanos Cancer Institute, 4100 John R. St., Detroit, MI 48201.
Contact Tresa Baldas: [email protected]