An American couple is facing the death penalty in Uganda for “constantly torturing” and eventually trafficking one of their three local foster kids from a Christian ministry.
Nicholas Spencer and wife Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32, both pleaded not guilty last week after their arrest on Dec. 9 in the capital city of Kampala, according to local outlet the Daily Monitor.
Their neighbors reportedly were the one’s who reported the alleged torture to authorities.
American Couple Moved To East African Country In 2017, Where They Adopted Three Children Cops Say
The couple had moved to the East African country in 2017 for humanitarian work, and adopted three children a year later from the Welcome Ministry in Jinja City.
Amongst the three children was a 10-year-old boy, who was HIV-positive and attended a special needs school, cops and local media report.
Ugandan authorities said the Spencers “constantly tortured” the child starting in 2020, “which attracted the attention of neighbors,” some of whom even took videos of the incidents, the outlet reports.
Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, pleaded not guilty after they were charged with child torture of a 10-year-old boy in their care while living in a Kampala suburb. A Ugandan state prosecutor said the couple were a flight risk https://t.co/ZhXA97xnv9 pic.twitter.com/FZGnTwE4pz
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 15, 2022
Authorities Describe Horrid Conditions Foster Parents Imposed On Special Needs Child
Authorities said the couple forced the boy to remain barefoot and “naked throughout the day,” and “would occasionally make him squat in an awkward position, with his head facing the floor and hands spread out widely,” per the Monitor.
The child was also made to sleep on a wooden platform without any bedding or mattress, and was only fed cold meals, according to police, who noted he “could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.”
The Daily Monitor cited a caregiver who told police that the child was singled out by the foster parents, who accused him of being mentally unstable, hyperactive and stubborn.
“I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue,” the caregiver reportedly said.
Couple Plead Not Guilty To Torture & Additional Charges Of Child Trafficking Which Carries Death Penalty
They have pleaded not guilty to initial charges of aggravated torture, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
On Tuesday, the couple were also additionally charged with aggravated child trafficking – a crime which carries the death penalty in Uganda, according to the state prosecutor.
An American couple living in Naguru in Kampala have been remanded to Luzira prison after being charged before court with allegedly torturing a 10-year-old.
Ms Mackenzie Leing Mathias Spencer and Mr Nicholas Spencer are accused of administering harsh punishments to the child. pic.twitter.com/3NsCiqKEWz
— Fine Miracle (@FineMiracle4) December 12, 2022
The arrest report claims the Spencers recruited, transported and kept the child via “abuse of position of vulnerability for purposes of exploitation,” according to the outlet.
They appeared in a magistrate’s court on Tuesday, but were not able to make a plea on the new charges as they can only be heard by the High Court, and were remanded to Luzia Prison – a maximum security facility.
Meanwhile, a date for the High Court hearing has yet to be scheduled as of Thursday.
Couple’s Attorney Claim Cops Have No Evidence, Call Case A “Fishing Expedition”
The couple’s attorney attempted to defend the couple, claiming authorities had no evidence and characterized the case as a “fishing expedition,” the Monitor reports.
“Last time we were in court, the state said that inquiries are complete and yet today they added a new charge and said that inquiries are ongoing,” she told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“It doesn’t make sense.”
.@FredEnanga1: The Kampala Metropolitan Police managed to charge two American foster parents with aggravated torture of a ten-year-old foster son called Kayima John Spencer. The suspects were identified as Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Spencer.#NBSUpdates pic.twitter.com/0c9mwQu8at
— NBS Television (@nbstv) December 12, 2022
Their lawyer had asked the court to release the Spencers on bail and cited unspecified health issues of theirs that could not be adequately treated in prison.
Bail Application Denied As Prosecutors Call Couple A Flight Risk, U.S Embassy Monitoring Situation
However, their bail application was ultimately denied as prosecutors claimed there were no ailments that could not be treated within Uganda’s prison system.
Meanwhile, the Spencers were also denied bail due to being a flight risk, prosecutors said, calling their “likelihood to abscond from bail… really, really high,” per the outlet.
“They have no community or family ties in Uganda, and the offense with which they are charged currently is of grave nature attracting a penalty of life imprisonment, therefore their likelihood to abscond from bail is really, really high,” prosecutor Joan Keko told the court.