A 67-year-old father was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday for the horrific treatment of his four young sons, who lived with him in a Denver apartment that was reportedly covered with flies and cat feces.
According to CBS Denver, Wayne Sperling kept his children in such terrible conditions that they "could not recognize food," and responded only in grunts when they were rescued by local authorities. The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 6, were also malnourished upon their discovery in October 2013. Evidence of abuse was only suspected after one of the children was taken to the emergency room for a cut on his forehead. The emergency room doctor was apalled by his sanitary conditions and his bruises, which he reported to the local police.
This is Sperling's second child abuse conviction, and his first sentencing lost him custody of three other children. Sperling's wife, Lorinda Bailey, received a much lighter sentence for her role in the same crime: 90 days and five years of probation. Bailey was also involved in the previous charges, for which she and Sperling plead guilty to misdemeanor child abuse in 2007. According to the Denver Post, Sperling took a plea deal in this case that led to six felony charges being dropped against him. He plead guilty to one remaining felony count of child abuse.
Judge J. Eric Elliff, who issued Sperling's sentence, claimed that he wanted to send a message about the unfair mistreatment of young children.
"The message is, you've got to treat your children with dignity and respect. They're not pets. They are not possessions. They are human beings that need to be carefully nurtured. That didn't happen here," Elliff said. "There have been so many failures on so many different levels. Now we have seven children who are going to be scarred by these early childhood conditions."
All four of the children have since been placed in foster care, but they are reportedly struggling as a result of the transition and have gone through multiple surgeries to deal with respiratory conditions. Deputy District Attorney Anita Drasan described the uphill battle the boys will face, saying, "They didn't smile, they didn't laugh, and they lived in constant fear and were unable to express themselves. These are fighters and survivors. They will grow to do great things. But they have a long battle before them."
Sources: CBS Denver, The Denver Post / Photo Credit: CBS