Dec 30, 2014 4:49 PM

Man gets 5 years for keeping 4 sons in filthy home

The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) A father whose four young sons could communicate only in grunts when authorities rescued them from a filthy Denver apartment was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to his second offense of child abuse.

Wayne Sperling, 67, told Judge J. Eric Elliff to do "whatever you feel is right" when given a chance to speak before he was sentenced.

Elliff said Sperling made excuses and did not accept responsibility for keeping the boys in "horrific" conditions, and he hoped the sentence sends a message that children can't be treated like pets or possessions.

"They are human beings that need to be carefully nurtured," Elliff said.

Sperling's wife, Lorinda Bailey, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation last month, and Sperling had sought a similar sentence. Prosecutors asked for Sperling to spend seven years in prison.

Authorities said Sperling, 67, his wife and the boys lived in an apartment filled with cat feces and flies. The children, ages 2 to 6, were malnourished when they were found in October 2013.

An emergency room doctor suspected abuse when the youngest was taken to the hospital for a cut on his forehead. The doctor noticed that the boy was unwashed, reeked of cigarette smoke and had bruises consistent with pinching. That led authorities to the apartment, where authorities said all the surfaces were covered with flies and that about an inch of solidified cat feces covered with urine lay beneath one of the boy's beds.

Prosecutors said it was one of their most horrific cases, but Colorado's child abuse laws kept them from pursuing harsher penalties because the children didn't suffer serious physical injuries.

After the boys were rescued and given bagged lunches to eat, they acted as if they hadn't seen food before, patting the sandwiches and playing with the apples, a detective testified during Bailey's sentencing hearing. An adult mimed eating an apple to encourage them to eat; they licked the fruit instead.

The boys are improving while living together in foster care, but they still struggle, prosecutors said. They still aren't all toilet trained, and their snack cupboard has to be kept locked to prevent them from hoarding.

The latest case involving Bailey and Sperling warranted felony charges because it was a repeat child-abuse offense. The couple lost custody of other children amid similar allegations in October 2006, after passers-by reported two young children playing in the street. The children mostly grunted and pointed to communicate, and officers found a home full of trash and rotten food.

Bailey and Sperling pleaded guilty in June 2007 to misdemeanor child abuse.


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