Former councilman pleads guilty, gets probation for child abuse

April 7, 2014 Updated: April 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm
photo - Charles E. Wingate (Colorado Springs Police Department photo)
Charles E. Wingate (Colorado Springs Police Department photo) 

Former Colorado Springs City Council member Charles E. Wingate pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse Monday and was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation.

Wingate and his wife, Sharon Starkey, were accused of child abuse in May 2013 after police said they found their 13-year-old son naked and living in a home littered with dead rodents and feces. "The condition we allowed him to live in was deplorable, it was a completely unacceptable situation," Wingate said addressing the court Monday. "I am truly sorry, and it will never happen again."

Judge Stephen J. Sletta warned Wingate that one more offense could earn him as much as a year in prison and ordered him to check in with the El Paso County court for any changes in physical address.

Police were alerted to the conditions of the home on the 6100 block of Corinth Drive, south of Dublin Boulevard, when a neighbor called 911 on May 16, according to police reports.

Police found the boy, described by officers as "autistic," living in what they called extremely unsanitary conditions.

"The boy stated he is an only child, home-schooled, and does not remember ever being outside the house. Neighbors confirmed they have not seen the boy outside in several years," police said in a news release.

In a brief statement to the judge, Wingate admitted he and his family had been attending therapy and working with professionals to improve conditions and resolve problems that include child care.

The boy was handed over to the state Department of Human Services after police found him and as an investigation developed. There was no information on whether the teen had been returned to his parents' custody.

"I will not comment about my son or this case at this time," Wingate said Monday.

Wingate was elected to the City Council in 2001 after an unsuccessful bid in 1997 and was Colorado Springs' youngest elected official at the age of 31. Less than three months into his term, he was sued for bouncing checks and was investigated a month after because pornographic websites had been accessed from his city computer. It was never proven if Wingate had been at the computer at the time.

In 2002, Wingate was charged with five felonies and two misdemeanors after police alleged he kept a $190 advance for a council trip, then stole the number of a Colorado Springs Utilities credit card and ordered pizza with it.

In May 2003, prosecutors filed 12 more charges, including an allegation that he pawned his city-owned computer.

Wingate quit the council in 2003 and pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement of public funds and the rest of the charges were dropped.

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