An American couple living in Naguru neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda, could face the death penalty over an aggravated child trafficking charge, lawyers said.
Police arrested Nicholas Spencer and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer — both 32 and hailing from South Carolina — on December 9 over allegations that they had tortured a ten-year-old HIV-positive boy they had fostered in the country, according to an Uganda Police Force news release.
The Spencer’s were subsequently charged with charges of aggravated torture, according to local outlet The Monitor. Aggravated torture carries a life sentence in Uganda.
The couple’s bail hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. However, they were denied bail because they posed a flight risk, Joan Keko, an attorney with the Ugandan state prosecutor’s office, told ABC News.
Nicholas and Mackenzie were also hit with charges of aggravated child trafficking.
If found guilty of the charge, they could be sent to death row, prosecutors said.
Court documents allege that Mackenzie “recruited, transported and maintained” the foster child “for the purpose of exploitation,” the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, the Spencer’s plead not guilty to both charges.
The couple had fostered three children before their imprisonment, the Associated Press reported. The children are now under police care.
According to police, the Spencer’s had fostered the children since 2018, a year after they had come to Uganda.
Between 2020 and 2022, police said, the couple would torture the boy, drawing the attention of neighbors.
The boy used to attend a school for children with special needs, Al Jazeera reported.
“Our team of investigators established, that the couple kept the victim barefoot, and naked throughout the day, would occasionally make him squat in an awkward position, with his head facing the floor and hands spread out widely,” police said.
The couple also allegedly made the boy sleep on a wooden platform without bedding and fed him cold meals, police said. “We believe, the victim could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.”
A caretaker the couple employed to take care of the child said she had approached police after noticing that the child’s condition deteriorated, The Monitor reported.
“I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue,” she said, according to the newspaper.
The caretaker said that the couple only allegedly tortured one child, claiming he was stubborn and hyperactive, and torture was a way to discipline him, The Monitor reported.
According to Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango, the case seems to be one with a child trafficking element because the Spencer’s allegedly used the children to get donations from others, the Associated Press reported.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.