DENVER -- A father whose four young sons could communicate only in grunts when authorities rescued them from a filthy Denver apartment faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday.
Sixty-seven-year-old Wayne Sperling pleaded guilty to his second offense of child abuse in November. Authorities say Sperling, 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.
Sperling's wife, Lorinda Bailey, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation.
Detective Teresa Gessler testified in Bailey's case that all the surfaces in the family's apartment were covered with dead or living flies and that about an inch of solidified cat feces covered with urine lay beneath one of the children's beds.
After they were rescued and given bagged lunches to eat, the boys acted as if they hadn't seen normal food before, Gessler testified. They patted the sandwiches and played with the apples. After an adult mimed eating an apple to encourage them to eat, they licked the fruit, she said.
When the boys were placed with the foster mother, prosecutor Bonnie Benedetti said at a hearing last month, they did not know how to dress themselves.
Prosecutors say it was one of their most horrific cases, but Colorado's child abuse laws kept them from pursuing harsher penalties because the children did not suffer serious physical injuries.
Prosecutors say the boys are improving in foster care.