Waterboarding suspect retains visitation rights; is allowed to see alleged victim days after arrest

Local News

PROVO (ABC4News) – According to police documents, the nine-year-old girl described being held down while her father and step-mother put a towel over her face and then poured water over her nose and mouth. Thursday, just 13 days after the girl’s father was arrested, he was allowed a supervised visit. 

Joseph Mitchell and Ilaria Mitchell were arrested on December 13th, and officially charged with child abuse on December 18th. Both were released from jail on a $15,000 bail. 

The Division of Child and Family Services does not comment on specific cases and would not confirm the visitation, but in a recorded phone call to the girl’s grandmother, a case worker confirms and explains the visit. She said that despite the charges, Mitchell still retains his parental rights. 

In a statement DCFS explains: 

“Our mission at Utah DCFS is to keep children safe from abuse and neglect, and to help strengthen families. When a child does have to be separated from their family and placed in foster care to ensure their safety, our goal is reunification with the family whenever safely possible. Services are provided to work to address the reasons for a child’s removal, and to build a parent’s long-term capacity to safely care for their children. Throughout a foster care case the parent(s) and child are provided separate legal representation, and they participate in hearings at regular intervals.

“The child’s safety is always paramount in any decisions regarding supervised visitation.
If during a supervised visit any interaction is found to be inappropriate, or the child wants the visit to end, the visit can be terminated immediately. 

“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.”

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