OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A Utah judge says two married foster parents lacked “just basic human decency” when they abused boys in their care by locking them up and using duct tape and zip-ties to restrain them.
District Judge Michael DiReda on Friday sentenced 39-year-old Matthew Earl Waldmiller and 40-year-old Diane Seifert Waldmiller to prison terms of one to 15 years.
“Special needs or otherwise, you don’t wrap duct tape around a child’s head. . I can’t even comprehend that ever being a reasonable response,” the judge said.
The Roy couple, who had said they were overwhelmed in dealing with boys ages 7, 10 and 11, resorted to locking them in their rooms for hours, wrapping their heads and faces in duct tape and zip-tying their wrists.
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The Waldmillers also left the children with no bedding in their room. The boys snuck out to break into a neighbor’s home and searching through a nearby school’s trash container for food.
The couple’s attorneys asked for sentences of a few months of jail, but DiReda said that would be too lenient,
“I’m afraid for their future and what it looks like,” the judge said. ” . It’s incredibly unfair to me that a child should have to carry these types of burdens into adulthood.”
The couple’s actions left the children emotionally damaged, DiReda said.
“I can’t even visualize it,” DiReda said. “Taping their heads just flies in the face of common sense and reasoning, and just basic human decency.”
The couple apologized tearfully and told DiReda they wish they had made better decisions and that they know their actions weren’t right.
“I’d like to say how sorry I am and wish this had never had happened,” Diane Waldmiller said. “I wish that the boys will be healthy and find homes that will love them and be able to recover.”
They pleaded guilty in August to child abuse by intentionally inflicting serious physical injury, a felony. In a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to include allegations covering all three boys in one count and to dismiss two others.
A presentence report said the Waldmillers couldn’t cope with their situation but did not seek help.
“It is a situation in which well-meaning adults were ill-prepared for the magnitude of parental responsibilities and found themselves overwhelmed by the enormity of parenthood. Could they have done things differently? Absolutely. Should they have done things differently? Most definitely. Did they do the best they knew how at the time? Probably,” the report states.
An anonymous complaint filed March 17 sent a case worker from the state Division of Child and Family Services to the couple’s Roy home on March 22.
The worker told police that in the boys’ room, there was no light bulb in the light fixture, the heat vent had been covered “so that no ventilation entered the room,” and the room’s only outside window had been painted black and “screwed shut so it would not open.”