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Walter Z Speller beat two biological sons and a step daughter to the point of causing life long disabilities.
His first son Isaiah was tortured at 14 months – he is now 8 years old and brain damaged, blinded and paralyzed on his left side. Speller received a sentence of 2-years for his abuse of Isaiah.
Upon release he met another women with whom he bore a son – Ohene Speller; who he beat injuring his brain and paralyzing him. Ohene’s half sister, Laniah, suffered similar abuse and brain damage.
He forced the girl to stand in front of him and held her face in the vise of his hands. Speller kept his nails long so they dug into the tender skin under Laniah’s ears and around her neck. He slapped her face. When she fell, Speller forced Laniah to get up.
“He just kept hitting her and hitting her,” Campblin testified.
Speller dragged the child into the bathroom.
“I heard him telling her not to move and to stop screaming because she was crying,” Campblin testified. “Then I heard him telling her to lay down, and he turned the water on her.”
Another time, Speller beat the child with a belt. He forced the girl to strip and lie on her stomach on a bed, and he thrashed her. Then he turned Laniah over, Campblin said, and whipped her front with the belt, too.
Photos submitted as evidence show bruises and welts covering Laniah’s body. One picture shows a mark in the shape of a belt buckle branded into Laniah’s skin. A forensic pediatrician skilled in assessing cases of child abuse testified that the girl had been repeatedly and severely beaten. No part of her body remained unbruised. Laniah suffered brain damage as a result.
Speller treated his biological son no better.
One day, Campblin testified, Speller bit his baby’s face so hard his teeth left indentations and the boy’s face turned black and blue. Speller brought the wailing boy to Campblin and told her to put cocoa butter on the wound.
“Did Walter tell you why he bit Ohene?” prosecutor Krista Fulton asked.
“He told me because he could do it; that’s his son,” Campblin replied.
A couple days later, Ohene Speller seemed sick. He had been vomiting and didn’t want to eat his baby cereal.
Walter Speller took the spoon from Campblin and shoved it into the 8-month-old boy’s mouth. That made Ohene cry all the harder.
“Walter got upset because he said he was acting like a little girl, acting like a bitch,” Campblin testified.
Campblin watched as Speller grabbed Ohene by the arm, yanked him out of his car seat, and smacked him in the back of the head. Speller threw the baby down on the bed. When Ohene continued to cry, Speller picked him up again and hit the child twice more in the head.
“He stopped crying because he started throwing up,” Campblin testified.
The baby’s body went rigid, and he grew red as he labored to breathe.
“He was just, like, lifeless in my arms,” Campblin said.
Campblin told Speller they needed to go to the hospital. But he delayed.
“He wanted to know what I was going to tell the doctors about the bite mark he had on his face,” Campblin said.
Campblin promised Speller she would tell doctors that Laniah accidentally bit Ohene. Speller drove them to the hospital, but he dropped them at the front door rather than the emergency department. He drove off, Laniah still in the car, while Campblin tried to find help for her son.
It was July 17, 2008. Doctors treated Ohene for seizures and bleeding in his brain. The next day, when Laniah came to visit her brother, hospital staff noticed the bruises covering her body and began to treat her, too.
Campblin admitted to hospital workers that Speller had beaten the children.
A police evidence photo of Campblin shows bruises on her face and neck.
It would be six months before Speller was arrested. A police photo of Speller shows him with close-cropped hair and a bushy goatee. He wears tattoos on his face: a cross on his forehead between his eyes, and black teardrops, one under his right eye, two under his left.
When prosecutor Fulton finished presenting evidence at his trial, Speller’s lawyer, Sonny Stallings, told the judge his client had two options: testify and let jurors decide his case, or plead guilty under an agreement offered by Fulton that would limit Speller’s prison term to a minimum of 12-1/2 years in prison and a maximum of 21 years.
If Speller testified, jurors would hear evidence of his prior convictions before deciding his guilt or innocence. The minimum time he would face if sentenced by a jury was 40 years; the maximum, two life terms.
Speller asked Judge Mary Jane Hall for time to think.
“That’s 12 to 21 years for something I didn’t do,” Speller said. “You know, come in here, saying OK, yes I did do it… that’s going to scar me for a long time.”
He pleaded guilty the next day.
Ohene and Laniah now live with foster parents. Laniah, now 5, has had eye surgery and sees therapists and a psychiatrist. She sometimes wakes at night, screaming. Ohene, like Isaiah, is paralyzed on his left side. Now 2 years old, he can crawl but cannot walk. Like Isaiah, he has only limited use of his left arm.