DENVER (AP) – A Denver couple accused of starving their four young sons and keeping them in a filthy apartment will not enter pleas to child abuse charges until next week after a judge postponed their plea hearing on Friday.
No reason was given for the delay, which was announced after a brief discussion among the judge and attorneys. Their comments weren’t audible to others.
The boys were taken from their parents, Wayne Sperling, 66, and Lorinda Bailey, 35, nearly two months ago. Hospital examinations showed the boys could communicate only in grunts, were malnourished and were not toilet trained, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Authorities said they were living in an apartment full of cat feces and flies.
Sperling and Bailey left the courtroom separately Friday, and neither they nor their attorneys would comment. A spokeswoman for prosecutors said she was looking into the reason for the delay.
Sperling and Bailey each face four counts of felony child abuse. They are now scheduled to enter their pleas on Thursday.
The boys are 2, 4, 5 and 6. All have been placed in protective care, but the Department of Human Services declined to release any details.
Police and social services began investigating when Bailey took her youngest son to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital on Sept. 29 for a cut on his forehead, which she said happened after a fall.
An emergency room doctor informed authorities that the child was unwashed and smelled like cigarette smoke, prompting a welfare check by a Denver Human Services case worker. Bruising behind the child’s right ear appeared consistent with pinching, the doctor said.
The welfare check revealed the squalid conditions.
A doctor with the Family Crisis Center told police that it did not appear that the children regularly visited the doctor and the 5-year-old had no medical records whatsoever.
The couple pleaded guilty in June 2007 to misdemeanor child abuse in a case involving other children, according to court documents.
Jeff and Megan Hillman of the eastern Colorado town of Lamar told The Denver Post they adopted two of those children.
When they took the children in five years ago, they did not speak and were not toilet-trained, and they ate ravenously whenever they saw food, the couple said.
Now ages 7 and 9, the children are catching up to their grade level in school, help with chores and play around the house, the couple said.
It “just took them longer to get normal,” Jeff Hillman said.
By STEVEN K. PAULSON, Associated Press
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