4 boys found in filthy home spoke in grunts, were malnourished and not toilet trained, per affidavit

DENVER - Four children found living in a Denver home full of flies and cat feces were severely malnourished and could only communicate with each other in grunts, according to an arrest affidavit released Monday.

The boys' parents, Wayne Sperling, 66, and Lorinda Bailey, 35, are charged with multiple counts of child abuse.

The investigation began when Bailey took her 2-year-old son to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital to be treated for a cut on his forehead on Sept. 29.

The child was non-verbal, unwashed, and smelled like cigarette smoke, according to the emergency room doctor.

Bailey told the doctor the cut occurred after a fall. The doctor said that explanation was possible, but said additional bruising behind the child's right ear seemed consistent with pinching.

Denver Police Officer N. Rocco-McKeel was called to the hospital to investigate and spoke to the doctor and Denver Human Services case worker Jill Perry.

The case worker informed the officer that there were three other boys, aged 4, 5 and 6, living in the family's home on 18th Avenue in Denver. Perry requested to have Officer Rocco-McKeel accompany her on a welfare check, according to the affidavit.

When they arrived at the apartment, Rocco-McKeel reported a strong odor of a decomposing animal coming from inside. The officer said the "smell became unbearable" as they entered the apartment. The officer could not locate the source of the smell but said it seemed to be coming from a back room that was so full of flies "they were covering every surface."

The officer also reported seeing five cats running around and said there was feces on the floor throughout the apartment.

The children could only communicate with each other using "infant-like noises," according to Rocco-McKeel.

The officer said the children all appeared to be about the same size and he could not determine any age or developmental difference between the three oldest children. Two of the children were wearing nothing but diapers.

The boys' mother told investigators she had been living alone in a separate unit of the building for the past two months, but saw the children almost every day.

Bailey denied that her children have any developmental delays and stated that they speak to her with no problems.

Bailey also stated that she did not think the apartment was unsafe or dirty.

The boys' father told investigators that he is their primary caregiver. Sperling stated that he was unemployed and stayed home with the children. None of the children were at school or in any daycare, and Sperling explained that he was "applying to home school" the 6-year-old child.

The children "have their own language" but are able to speak to him and their mother, Sperling told police.

Sperling said the feces on the floor "looks like human but it's the cats," according to the affidavit.

Sperling said he mops the floor frequently but with four boys it is hard to keep clean.

The children were placed in protective custody and all four underwent general exams at the hospital on Sept. 29. They were found to be non-verbal, malnourished, and not toilet trained.

On Sept. 30, investigators returned to the home and noted that recent attempts had been made to clean the apartment, but the smell of cat urine and feces "was still overwhelming."

There was 1-2 inches of cat feces under the bunk bed where the children slept and the floor was soaked with cat urine, according to the affidavit.  The floors were covered with dead flies, indicating some type of bug spray had recently been used.

Sperling said the flies fill the back room every summer because the cats won't use the litter box.

There was a single mattress and a bunk bed set in the room, but neither had sheets or pillows.

The affidavit notes that both parents had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse in June 2009.

Sperling and Bailey were each charged with four counts of felony child abuse. They remain jailed under $5,000 bonds.

Both are due in court Tuesday to hear the charges against them.

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