How could 5 years in prison be considered justice????
The four young boys were deprived of sunlight.
On Tuesday in Denver District Court the father of the four boys, 67-year-old Wayne Sperling, was sentenced to five years in prison for keeping his sons in a tiny Denver apartment covered in layers of cat and human feces. Decomposing animals were found near the squalid mattress the four boys shared.
Sperling accepted a plea agreement on Nov. 13 in Denver District Court. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of child abuse naming all four boys.
The original six felony charges were dropped.
None of the boys — ages 2, 4, 5 and 6 at the time — could speak or recognize their names when they were removed from the apartment in September 2013. They didn’t know how to eat a sandwich or recognize an apple as food, said Deputy District Attorney Anita Drasan.
The four boys went through a total of six surgeries after they were rescued. One boy still struggles with respiratory illness and another suffers from a heart defect.
Drasan handed a photo of the youngest boy to Denver District Court Judge Eric Elliff before she spoke. Elliff stared down at the photo as Drasan described how the little boy still scavenges for crumbs and hoards food. All four boys have been placed in the same foster home and have made dramatic improvements, but they still have “long battles before them,” Drasan said.
Sperling and the boys’ mother, Lorinda Bailey, were known to Denver County child protective services before their arrest in October 2013. In 2006 and 2009, both Sperling and Bailey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse charges. Bailey’s parental rights for her three other children were terminated in 2009. Each received a sentence of two years of probation in that case.
“We’re not standing here today asking for a department of corrections sentence for someone who didn’t know better,” Drasan said. “He knew better.”
But Sperling’s attorney, public defender Elizabeth Atkinson, called Sperling “marginalized in many ways,” and said he was remorseful for what happened to his sons. The abuse they suffered, she said, was not out of malice. “They were harmed by ignorance,” Atkinson said. “By parents who were not equipped to be parents.”
As his attorney spoke, Sperling hunched over the long defense table gripping a wooden pipe he’d brought to several of his earlier hearings. His pursed lips quivered as he held back tears and his eyes darted to different spots on the table.
When asked if he wanted to say anything, Sperling quietly spoke in a few, short sentences. Only his last sentence could be heard from the galley behind him. “Whatever you feel is right,” he said.
Atkinson asked Elliff to sentence Sterling to the same punishment handed down to Bailey. The 37-year-old accepted a similar plea agreement and pleaded guilty to reckless child abuse. She was sentenced to 90 days in the Denver jail and five years of probation.
But Elliff viewed the two cases in very different ways, he said. “The control here, in my view, Mr. Sperling was all with you,” Elliff said. “You make excuses from the bizarre to the incredible.” Elliff said Sperling’s sentence will hopefully send a message to the community. “The message is you have to treat you children with dignity,” Elliff said. “They are not pets or possessions.”
Neither Sperling or Bailey are fighting for custody for any of their seven children.