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Waterboarding As A Parenting Tool? Utah Couple Allegedly Used Banned Torture Technique On 9-Year-Old

“The 9-year-old stated she cannot breathe and it hurts when this happens,” authorities say in a probabe cause affidavit for Joseph and Ilaria Mitchell.

By Eric Shorey

A 9-year-old Utah girl was allegedly waterboarded multiple times by her father and stepmother as punishment, leading to the couple's arrest on child abuse charges.

Joseph Maeser Mitchell, 29, and Ilaria Catherina Mitchell, 28, of Provo, Utah were arrested Dec. 13 after their daughter told the Division of Child and Family Services that she had been punished by means of the violent torture technique on three separate occasions. The girl, who remains unnamed in reports as she is a minor, said her parents put a towel over her mouth and held her head under running water until she came close to suffocating. Her hands were also tied behind her back.

“The 9-year-old stated she cannot breathe and it hurts when this happens,” a probable cause affidavit states, according to Salt Lake City’s FOX 13.

Waterboarding was often used as a tortuous interrogation technique by the CIA before being banned in 2009 for its cruelty, according to NBC News.

The child also stated she had been struck with a closed fist by her step-mother and had suffered other forms of unspecified abuse from the parents.

The Division of Child and Family Services became aware of the situation and alerted police after nurses at the Utah Valley Hospital noticed marks on the girl's wrists while treating her for an injury, according to WKRC, a Cincinatti, Ohio-based news organization.

Brittany Calabrese, the girl's biological mother, was horrified by the accusations.

“It was the hardest thing for me to hear,” Calabrese, who has not seen her daughter since 2014, told Fox 13. “She’s ... 9 years old. That is torture of a child.”

Calabrese had been notified that her child was taken safely into protective custody and will be held there until the courts decide her future.

Joseph Mitchell faces an additional charge of unlawful possession of a financial card after police discovered a suspicious credit card belonging to a juvenile relative in his possession. He told police the card was connected to his wife's account.

[Photo: Utah County Sheriff's Office]