DENVER -- A Denver couple accused of starving their four young sons and keeping them in a filthy apartment strewn with cat feces, urine and flies have been advised of felony child abuse charges against them.
The boys are 2, 4, 5 and 6. Documents say all four have been placed in protective care and have undergone hospital exams that found they are malnourished, not toilet trained and can only communicate in grunts.
Thirty-five-year-old Lorinda Baley, who is free on bond, appeared in court for the first time Tuesday dressed in a black pantsuit.
Her husband, 66-year-old Wayne Sperling, is in custody and sat with about a dozen other defendants behind glass. He was dressed in a yellow jail uniform.
They did not enter pleas.
In June 2009 the couple pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse, according to the affidavit first obtained by KMGH-TV. The ABC affiliate also reported that police found clutter and unsanitary conditions at the home last year.
The current charges against the parents come after an investigation that began Sept. 29 when Bailey took her youngest son to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital for a cut on his forehead that 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.
Denver police Officer N. Rocco-McKeel accompanied the case worker to the apartment at her request and reported finding five cats and feces on the floor throughout the apartment and the "strong odor of a decomposing animal." The officer noted that flies covered "every surface" in one room and that he couldn't determine any age or developmental differences between the three eldest children.
The mother said she did not think the apartment was unsafe and denied the boys had any developmental delays. The mother said she had been living alone in a separate unit of the building for the past two months, but still saw the children every day except Saturday and Sunday "when she works too much."
Sperling, meanwhile, told investigators he was unemployed and has been the boys' primary guardian. He intended to begin home schooling the 6-year-old.
He also said the feces on the floor of the apartment was that of the cats'. The affidavit said there was 1-2 inches of cat feces under the bunk bed where the boys slept and the floor was soaked with cat urine.
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 records whatsoever.