A Colorado man who kept his four sons in an apartment filled with dead flies and cat feces was sentenced to five years in prison for child abuse on Friday.
Judge J. Eric Elliff said that 67-year-old Wayne Sperling had not learned his lesson after losing custody of three other children in a previous child abuse conviction, and the sentence should send a message that parents cannot treat their children as pets, the Associated Press reported.
Sperling’s four sons, aged 2 to 6 years old, were only able to communicate in grunts when authorities found them at their squalid Denver apartment. When given sandwiches and apples after being rescued, the boys behaved as if they had never seen proper food.
The apartment had flies covering every surface, and officials found decomposing animals and an inch of cat droppings under one of the boys’ beds.
Sperling’s wife, Lorinda Bailey, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation last month on similar charges.
The boys are reportedly improving in foster care but have a long road ahead towards normalcy. Prosecutors said Colorado’s child abuse laws do not allow them to pursue a harsher sentence for Sperling, since the children did not suffer any physical abuse.