Nicholas and Mackenzie faces death penalty

An American couple has been arrested in Uganda on charges of brutally abusing a 10-year-old boy. They are also charged with aggravated child trafficking, an offense that carries the death penalty if proven guilty. Both Nicholas Spencer and Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, 32, have been in custody in Uganda since Friday, December 9, after being accused of torturing a child residing in their Kampala, Uganda home in foster care. Why Nicholas and Mackenzie faces death penalty.

The young man was allegedly forced to spend days in his underwear and barefoot, and the couple frequently forced him to squat with his hands open and his head on the floor, and only gave him cold food from the refrigerator. The couple are being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the only maximum security facility in the country that also houses death row inmates.

According to authorities, the couple traveled to Uganda in 2017 to volunteer for a US-based nonprofit in the city of Jinja before moving to Naguru, a posh Kampala suburb, to work at a new company. The 10-year-old boy was allegedly recruited, transported, and detained by the defendants for “exploitation purposes,” according to the charge sheet.


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The Ugandan newspaper The Monitor described an unnamed lawyer representing the couple as characterizing the investigation as a “fishing expedition” by the authorities because they had no supporting documentation. She was quoted as adding that the additional child trafficking charges “don’t make sense.”


In a newspaper interview, a woman claiming to be the boy’s caretaker described what she witnessed and claimed that the boy had a camera in her room that recorded everything he did. The caretaker said: “I wanted to leave the job, but I knew that if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue.” She said the couple only mistreated one of their three adopted children because they believed the 10-year-old was difficult, hyperactive and mentally unstable, so they used punishment to keep him in line.

When they appeared in magistrates’ court on Tuesday, December 20, they were read the most recent charge, but they were not allowed to enter a guilty plea because the case can only be heard in the High Court. On Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office spokeswoman, Jacquelyne Okui, said: “We will start the process of committing them to the High Court, but we cannot say when it will be finished so they can appear in court.”

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