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US couple may face death penalty for alleged torture, trafficking in Uganda

Jail cells (Dreamstime/TNS)
January 10, 2023

An American couple living in Uganda could face the death penalty over allegations of torture of a 10-year-old HIV-positive boy they fostered in the African nation. 

According to a Uganda Police Force news release, Nicholas Spencer and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both aged 32 and originally from South Carolina, were arrested by Ugandan police on December 9 on allegations of torturing a 10-year-old boy. The Spencers are facing charges of aggravated torture which carry a life sentence in Uganda, as reported by The Monitor.

The Spencers are also facing charges of aggravated child trafficking, which carries the death penalty in Uganda, the Gateway Pundit reported.

Court documents allege that Mackenzie Spencer “recruited, transported and maintained” the foster child “for the purpose of exploitation,” according to The Associated Press. Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango told the AP that the aggravated child trafficking charge stems from the allegation that the Spencers used the children they fostered for donations. 

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The American couple was denied bail at their initial hearing. Joan Keko, an attorney with the Ugandan state prosecutor’s office, told ABC News that the couple was denied bail because they posed a flight risk. 

Ugandan authorities have claimed that between 2020 and 2022, the torture of the child drew the attention of neighbors. Ugandan authorities allege that the couple made the boy sleep on a wooden platform without bedding and fed him cold meals.

Ugandan authorities also commented, “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.”

“We believe, the victim could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera,” police added.

According to the AP, the Spencers fostered three children since 2018. The boy used to attend a school for children with special needs, Al Jazeera reported.

The children are now in police custody and protection. The Spencers have pleaded not guilty to both charges.