As a Utah couple remains behind bars on charges of child abuse stemming from an alleged waterboarding incident earlier this month, the father has reportedly retained visitation rights to a little girl he’s accused of abusing.
The Daily Herald reports that Joseph Mitchell, 29, and Ilaria Mitchell, 28, are facing four child abuses charges after a 9-year-old girl told police on December 3 that the couple would tie her hands behind her back and force water over her face for around five minutes each time. The girl reportedly said the couple, identified as her parents, would put a towel over her face first and use the water as a form of punishment getting something to drink after her bedtime.
Afterward, the girl was allegedly forced to stay in the bathtub for up to 15 minutes.
“She stated she couldn’t hear anything they were saying and couldn’t breathe while the water was being poured. She stated that Ilaria told her at some point during the event that she ‘could die from this happening,’” the arrest documents read.
Court documents stated the alleged abuse happened at least three times prior, once after the girl had “eaten some frosting when she wasn’t supposed to.” During the latest incident, Joseph Mitchell apparently took the little girl to the hospital for medical treatment, where she told a nurse she was warned not to tell anyone about the abuse.
Further, the little girl reportedly said her parents hit her face, bloodied her nose, and forced her to exercise by hitting her with a belt and broom. Two other kids in the home told authorities they, too, were hit with belts, hangers, a cellphone charger, and shoes.
On December 13, police arrested the couple. They both remain behind bars on $50,000 bail, but according to ABC4, a caseworker with the Division of Child and Family Services confirmed to the girl’s grandmother over a recorded call that Joseph Mitchell had visitation with his daughter while in jail. DCFS did not specifically confirm the visitation to the public, but reportedly explained to the child’s grandmother that the suspect still has rights as a father to see his child.
The agency sent a statement to ABC4, explaining that under Utah law, the court has the option to approve or deny a visit.
“Every parent has the right to reasonable visitation, unless restricted by the court (Utah Code Ann. §78A-6-106). A court may deny a request for visitation if they find that the child’s safety is at risk, including physical harm and/or the contact causing potential trauma due to the child’s fear of the parent “in light of the nature of the alleged abuse or neglect” (Utah Code Ann. 78A-6-312). If the court determines that reunification services are appropriate for the child and the child’s family, the court will order reasonable visitation. This will be continuously assessed and can be adjusted during the foster care case to account for the changing needs of the child.”
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Joseph Mitchell and Ilaria Mitchell/Police Handout]