DENVER - It was 2006, and Denver Police say they had come upon a disturbing find. Three children were playing in a busy street. The oldest, a 4-year old, "said very few words and would only grunt and point at things." Their apartment "revealed trash everywhere." All three were extremely dirty, according to a newly released court document.
Seven years later, those three children no longer live with their parents, but Denver Police believe history may be trying to repeat itself.
Last week, the same parents who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse in 2006, were charged with felony child abuse in a case that has striking similarities to the earlier one. This time it involves four of the couple's children, all born after 2006.
Denver prosecutors have charged Wayne Sperling, 66, and Lorinda Bailey, 35, with four counts of felony child abuse. Denver Police say the latest case came to light when the couple's youngest child, a 2-year-old boy, showed up with his mother at St. Joseph's Hospital with a "forehead laceration." Police say the boy "was non-verbal and smelled un-washed and of cigarette smoke."
A Denver Human Services worker who came to the hospital that night told police there were three other children, ages 4, 5 and 6 years old, living at Bailey's apartment on East 18th Avenue. When the police officer performed a welfare check on the residence, he noted "a strong odor of decomposing animal coming from the residence when (Wayne) Sperling opened the door."
"The officer noted the children appeared to be non-verbal and were making 'infant-like noises' to each other," read the police report. All four children were eventually taken into protective custody where they remain today.
David Allen lives in the same apartment complex.
"I just feel like this whole situation was broken," he said. "I feel like [Human Services] should have been on top of it with all of the times [Sperling and Bailey] have been in trouble."
He said things came to a head last year when one of the kids was seen hanging out of a first-floor window. A Denver Police report referred the case to the Denver City Attorney's Office. A responding officer put in his report that "someone would stop by to check on the children in the future," but it's unclear if Denver Human Services had additional contact since then.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Human Services announced it would review Denver's involvement in the case. Privacy issues prevent both agencies from commenting any further for the time being.
Bailey and Sperling pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse in 2007 stemming from that 2006 case. Both were given two years of supervised probation and ordered to take parenting classes. Court documents suggest the three children involved in the 2006 case were "adopted out."
The 2006 case involved the same residence as the 2012 and 2013 cases. Allen said the two had recently been fighting and living in separate units within the same building. A large pile of trash could be seen behind the building. Allen said the two recently tried to clean up the units after police became involved.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)