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U.S. Couple In Uganda Plead Not Guilty To Torturing Their 10-year-old Foster Son By ‘Keeping Him Naked, Making Him Squat In Awkward Pose And Feeding Him Only Cold Food’

  • Couple denied bail after being ruled a flight risk and could now face life in jail

An American couple charged with torturing a 10-year-old boy they fostered by keeping him barefoot and naked and forcing him to sleep without a mattress – all while keeping a camera on his every move – have been ruled a flight risk. 

Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32, pleaded not guilty after they were charged with aggravated torture of the boy in their care while living in a Kampala suburb. 

Police said that the couple would force the boy to spend the day barefoot and naked, would often make him squat in awkward positions – such as his head facing the floor or his hands spread widely – and was only served cold meals from a fridge.

The Spencers singled out the boy among their three foster children for allegedly being ‘mentally unstable’ and would also not let him sleep on a mattress, as authorities said the child ‘spent his nights’ on a wooden platform.

They added: ‘We believe, the victim could have endured more severe acts of torture, away from the camera.’

Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer with their foster children

Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer with their foster children

The couple also face charges of remaining in the country illegally, as their work permits have expired. They have been kept in custody since last Friday. 

The couple have three Ugandan children with them under foster care, including the victim, police said. 

In an interview with the Ugandan outlet The Monitor, a woman who said she was the boy’s caretaker spoke anonymously about what she saw and also alleged that the boy had a camera in his room to watch his every move.

The caretaker said: ‘I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue.’

She added that the couple only abused one of their three foster children because they claimed the 10-year-old boy was stubborn, hyperactive and mentally unstable. They used the punishments to keep him in line. 

Reports suggest the boy was pulled out of school four months ago. 

A lawyer for the caregiver, Christine Tumuhairwe, said that evidence of the boy being punished after having been read a list of his ‘wrongdoings’ has been submitted to the police.  

Prosecutor Joan Keko argued that the Spencers remain imprisoned: ‘They have no community or family ties in Uganda, and the offence with which they are charged currently is of grave nature attracting a penalty of life imprisonment, therefore their likelihood to abscond from bail is really, really high.’

The couple’s lawyer Leila Saaliwulide said both had ailments requiring care which could not be given in prison. Keko argued there was no ailment that could not be treated in prison.

The Spencers are currently being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the only maximum security prison in the country. Notably, the prison houses the country's death row inmates

The Spencers are currently being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the only maximum security prison in the country. Notably, the prison houses the country’s death row inmates

Magistrate Sarah Tumusiime said the couple should remain in jail until she rules on their bail application on December 20.

The Spencers are currently being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the only maximum security prison in the country. Notably, the prison houses the country’s death row inmates.  

The couple arrived in Uganda country in 2017 to volunteer at a United States-based non-profit in the town of Jinja before moving to Naguru, an upmarket Kampala suburb, to work at a start-up, police said.

Prior to that, Nicholas Spencer worked for five years as everything from a press assistant to a senior legislative aide to former South Carolina Congressman and now Fox News host Trey Gowdy, according to Spencer’s LinkedIn

Police urged social workers to constantly monitor the wellbeing of vulnerable children and those in foster homes, saying: ‘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.’ has reached out to a press spokesperson for Fox News for comment. 

Nicholas Spencer is currently listed as working for MOTIV Uganda, a company that according to its LinkedIn page: ‘Creates a space where makers can refine and scale their businesses to meet the demand for local and international markets. MoTIV provides creatives with the opportunity to access factories, training, a tribe, and a marketplace where brands sell their products.’ 

Wife Mackenzie also works for MOTIV, according to Uganda police. She said on a GoFundMe she started that she and husband Nicholas ‘moved to East Africa nearly 3 years ago with my husband, Nick, and we have been doing humanitarian work focused on women’s empowerment and education.’

She mentions that they are ‘also foster parents to 3 incredible children.’

The 10-year-old boy attended a school for children with special needs in Kampala, according to Al Jazeera

The U.S. Embassy acknowledged a Reuters request for details on the case and said it would respond in due course. 

Daily Mail (UK)

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