Charles Wingate, ex-councilman, apologizes for keeping naked, autistic boy in filth
Charles Wingate was once a Colorado Springs city councilman, as well as a prominent, respected member of the community.
Now, however, Wingate must rebuild his life and his reputation from the ground up. He's been sentenced for misdemeanor child abuse after his naked, autistic thirteen-year-old son was found living in a home pocked with human feces and dead rodents.
Details, photos and video below.
When he was profiled by journalist Cara DeGette in the Colorado Springs Independent back in 2001, Wingate was described as "a 32-year-old stockbroker who ran unsuccessfully two years ago for the chairmanship of the local Republican Party," as well as a "a former supporter of ultra-conservative candidates like North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms and El Paso County Commissioner Betty Beedy" who "has raised some progressive eyebrows but maintains fairly moderate positions on the issues."
His main platform involved public safety, a focus that won him the endorsement of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
After a vigorous campaign, Wingate won a seat on the council -- but he didn't stay there long, as noted by DeGette in a 2003 update headlined "10 Republicans Who Have Kept Us in Business."
There's no denying Wingate presented the press with plenty of material. Shortly after his 2001 election, loads of porn was found on his city computer. He denied being the surfer responsible for pulling it up. But shortly thereafter, he was accused of charging pizzas to his city credit card without authorization -- something necessary, presumably, because he was bouncing checks all over town.
By May 2003, he'd lost his stockbroker job, and the council position followed owing to sixteen felony charges and two misdemeanors put forward against him by local prosecutors for offenses that included pawning city equipment.
Among the items apparently hocked was a clock radio belonging to a fellow council member.
Eventually, Wingate resigned, but he apparently felt aggrieved at his mistreatment. The Independent quoted him as saying, "Everyone in the Republican Party can break the rules except me."
Wingate's home in Colorado Springs.
After pleading guilty to embezzlement of public funds in a deal that led to the other allegations against him being dropped, Wingate faded from the public eye for the better part of a decade. But in May 2013, he returned with a vengeance, after police visited his home, on the 6100 block of Corinth Drive, and were shocked at what they found inside.
As reported at the time by 7News, cops on a welfare check prompted by a neighbor's call discovered Wingate's thirteen-year-old boy alone in the home, which the pair shared with his wife, Sharon Starkey.
The teen was naked and the conditions were startling. Human feces was said to have littered the residence along with rodents both alive and dead.
How long had the child been kept in such conditions? He told authorities he couldn't remember ever going outside.
Upon bonding out, Wingate tried to put the best face on the reports, telling the station, "I don't think all of it's accurate. There are some rodents in the house; I don't know where they came from. There may be some dead rodents. Feces all over the house? I don't believe that's an accurate statement."
He also denied that his son had been kept locked away from the world: "He is not someone who likes to go outside a great deal. It has been cold for the last couple of weeks, to my memory, so he probably hasn't been outside to play. Has he been outside? Of course. He's been outside to get in my car and transport places with me and mom, so yes, he's been outside."
Wingate speaking after his 2013 arrest.
Nonetheless, Wingate pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse yesterday, and in a court appearance covered by the Colorado Springs Gazette, he was apologetic.
"The condition we allowed him to live in was deplorable, it was a completely unacceptable situation," he told the court after being sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation. "I am truly sorry, and it will never happen again."
At this point, there's no information concerning the whereabouts of his child. "I will not comment about my son or this case at this time," he said.
Here's a larger look at Wingate's mug shot, followed by the 7News report from May 2013.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa October 2013: "Wayne Sperling's child abuse bust: Swarms of flies, piles of feces."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.