Kampala, Uganda: An American couple that has been living in Uganda since 2017 is facing charges related to one of their three foster children which could result in a sentence of life in prison or even the death penalty if they are found guilty.
After arriving in Uganda to work with Akola Project in 2017, the Spencers began to foster three children in 2018. In 2020 it appears that the couple began working for MoTIV and relocated with the children. At this time investigators believe that the abuse took place between 2020 and December 2022.
According to a press release issued by the Uganda Police Force on Tuesday, December 13, Nicholas Spencer and his wife Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32-years-old, were initially charged with aggravated torture of their 10-year-old son.
"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, [and] he spent his nights on a wooden platform without a mattress or beddings and was served cold meals from the fridge."
The release indicated that was just what was caught on a surveillance camera that had been placed in the boy's room and more severe acts of torture had not yet been ruled out.
The police did take the opportunity to commend those that spoke up about the abuse as well as to admonish the foster system saying, "we want to thank the neighbors, teachers and the victim, for taking the courage to stand up against acts of child torture. We also call upon all probation officers and social workers to continuously monitor the well-being of children in foster homes, to guard against handing over vulnerable children to abusive foster parents, or other forms of harm. For instance, what happened to the victim in the last couple of years probably could have been prevented if they had closely monitored the well-being of the foster children."
The Mirror reports that the couple has been in custody since December 9 and has also been charged with aggravated child trafficking. If convicted on that charge, the couple faces the possible death sentence.
A woman that claimed to be employed as a caregiver in the home brought attention to the abuse and has since spoke to a local newspaper under the condition of anonymity.
"I wanted to leave the job," she told The Monitor, "but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue." She alleged that the boy was singled out for the abuse because he was seen as stubborn, hyperactive and "mentally unstable."
Leila Saaliwulide, defense attorney for the Spencers called the case a "fishing expedition" and said that the trafficking charge "doesn't make sense."
Additional charges have been filed against the couple for being in the country on expired work permits.
At this time the Spencers have entered a plea of not guilty to the torture charge.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Uganda said, "We are aware of reports of the arrest and detention of two U.S. citizens in Kampala. We are monitoring the situation. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time."