A US couple Living in Uganda has to face the death penalty for torturing and trafficking a foster child.
The couple Nicholas Spencer and Macenzie Leigh Mathias have been living in Uganda since 2017. They had three foster children. One of these foster children was tortured and trafficked by them.
This couple was taken into custody on December 9, 2022, from Uganda, by the territorial police of Kampala. They were accused of abusing their 10-year-old special needs foster child after the neighbours and a domestic helper alerted the police.
A charge sheet against these couples was presented before the Buganda Road Court by the State Prosecution accusing them of torturing and trafficking their 10-year-old boy.
The 32-year-old couple, Nicholas Spencer and Macenzie Leigh Mathias were originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina. They were living and working in Uganda for about five years.
They were working in the Akola Project, which is an organisation that makes hand-made jewellery with local resources. It was based in Jinja and the goal of the organisation was to empower Ugandan women in the employment sector.
As per the reports by the authorities, after relocating to Uganda, the US couple fostered three children in 2018, including the victim, from Jinja city-based organisation called Welcome Ministry.
Later the couple moved to Upper Naguru, the capital of Kampala, with their foster children and joined the Motive creation Agency, a private organisation. It is where they started to work on the Akola Project.
According to the testimony presented in court on Wednesday, the boy was HIV positive. And was allegedly had his legs apart facing the floor while being forced to pose in weird positions, and learned that the boy had been constantly tortured since 2020. The court also denied the bail of the couple.
According to a worker at the home of this couple, The boy was forced to eat only cold food from the refrigerator while the other kids were given hot and fresh meals. He was also kept naked in the house and made him sleep on a wooden platform without bedding or blankets.
According to the caretaker who worked in the house, the Spencers kept the child confined to a small tiled room and he was supposedly kept home from school. The boy was constantly being watched by a webcam.
The police have got the CCTV footage of the couple torturing the boy harshly. The statement by the police on December 13, says that there must be more severe acts of torture, away from the camera that the victim could have experienced.
The caretaker said that she wanted to leave the job in that house but she knew that if she leave the home without doing anything about the torture and all, the cruelty would continue. Thus she remained there to save the child from this violence.
She also noted that only one foster child was tortured because the couple believed that he was more stubborn, overactive, and mentally unstable than the other two.
After the neighbours raised concerns about the child’s condition, the police were informed and thus the couple were arrested.
The attorney of the US couple, Leila Saaliwulide rejected the allegations on Wednesday in court. She called the allegations a “fishing expedition.” The couple was also charged with trafficking in children on Wednesday.
Patrick Onyango, Spokesman of Kampala Metropolitan Police said that the Spencers might face child trafficking charges because they were allegedly using the foster child for soliciting money from various people.
The couple who are now in the custody of Kampala police will have the ability to enter a plea if the case is transferred to a higher court.
In 2019, Macenzie Leigh Mathias established a GoFundMe campaign where she listed Spartanburg, South Carolina as her hometown, and raised $5000 of the desired $35,000 for back surgery.
In her request for money, she stated that she relocated to East Africa with her husband, Nick and has three foster children.
They were doing humanitarian work centred on women’s empowerment and education. Because of leaving the US, they have no insurance there. So they have to take money for all their needs from their own pockets. This is how she collected money from people for the back surgery.
The police stated in court that they had many other reports of foster parents abusing children and they told the social workers to take care of and monitor the foster families. According to the police, if they had regularly monitored this, there would have been this issue.
The couple requested bail and special care in the court because of Spencer’s back problem, but the court on Wednesday denied their bail by rejecting all the pleas by the couple’s attorney because there is no such treatment given in Uganda’s prison system.
The US embassy in Kampala hadn’t made any comment regarding the news because they are still monitoring the allegation.