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Utah County Jail
Joseph Maseser Mitchell

PROVO — A couple accused of tying up a 9-year-old girl, putting a towel over her head and pouring water on her will face felony abuse charges.

Joseph Maseser Mitchell, 29, and Ilaria Catherina Mitchell, 28, were charged Wednesday in 4th District Court with three counts of child abuse, a second-degree felony; and child abuse, a class misdemeanor.

On Dec. 3, the Utah County Sheriff's Office was called to investigate a potential child abuse case. The girl told investigators that she went to the kitchen to get a drink, but forgot she wasn't allowed to do that because it was too late at night, according to charging documents.

"Both parents then took her into the bathroom and brought a drink cup. She stated she was held down in the bathtub, her hands were tied together behind her back, and a towel was put over her face. She stated then that her parents poured water over the towel onto her face for about 2 to 5 minutes, and made her stay in the bathtub for 15 minutes. She stated she couldn't hear anything they were saying and couldn't breathe while the water was being poured," the charges state.

Joseph Mitchell is the girl's father and Ilaria Mitchell her stepmother, according to court documents.

"Ilaria told her at some point during the event that she 'could die from this happening,'" the charges state.

The girl told detectives that she had had water poured on her with a towel covering her face three times, according to charging documents.

"At the hospital, an injury was noted and photographed on her left hand that appears to be consistent with her hands having been tied. She also had a number of scratches and bruising on her body. She stated that her father told her not to tell anyone about this. This act with the water amounts to physical torture," the charges state.

Other punishment the girl allegedly endured from the Mitchells included being hit by a belt, hanger, broom or closed fist, according to the charges.

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The Mitchells' other two children collaborated their "parents use hangers, belts, shoes, and a cellphone charging cord with which to hit the children," and made the 9-year-old "do physical workouts like squats or push-ups as a punishment."

Joseph Mitchell denied the abuse allegations when questioned by investigators.

"When asked how his 9-year-old daughter would know how what is essentially waterboarding would work, he didn't know but thought that maybe she heard about it from a neighbor girl," the charges state.