Couple held in waterboarding of girl, 9, police say

The father and stepmother of a 9-year-old girl have been arrested on child abuse charges after being accused of using waterboarding as a form of punishment, according to a report.

Authorities identified the suspects as Joseph Maeser Mitchell, 29, and Ilaria Catherina Mitchell, 28, of Provo, Utah, Salt Lake City’s FOX 13 reported.

The girl told police that the couple punished her on three occasions by tying her hands behind her back, then holding her down in a bathtub, with a towel over her face, as they ran water over her face, the report said.

“The 9-year-old stated that she cannot breathe and it hurts when this happens,” a police report states, according to FOX 13.

Reached in Texas, the girl’s biological mother expressed shock and outrage after hearing the allegations, the station reported.

“It was the hardest thing for me to hear having to be in Texas,” said Brittany Calabrese, who added she hasn’t seen her daughter since 2014. “She’s nine, nine years old. That is torture of a child.”

The case came to the attention of authorities in November when the father brought the girl to Utah Valley Hospital for an unspecified reason, and nurses making inquiries determined that something seemed wrong.

The child is currently in the custody of the state’s Division of Child and Family Services while the case is handled by the legal system, FOX 13 reported.