Utah stepmom punished kids by placing heads in boxes, tying them up, police said

Posted at 2:54 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 16:54:47-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — A Utah woman who works with the Tooele County School District was arrested and charged with child abuse after she allegedly punished her stepchildren by tying them up and putting boxes over their heads.

The woman was taken into custody following an investigation that began after the 11-year-old sibling of the children showed video of the punishment to his principal at a Tooele elementary school.

She was charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse

According to the Tooele County School District, the woman has been placed on administrative leave pending the allegations. The woman was a paraprofessional in the district, which is someone who assists teachers in the classroom, but does not have a teacher's license.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the boy said the incidents have been ongoing for two years. He said that when his 8-year-old and 5-year-old brothers were loud in the morning, they would get placed in "time out for the whole day."

The 11-year-old told police that his stepmother places a "marble maze toy" on the top of the boxes, and if they move at all, it will rattle, alerting the woman. If the children were found to have moved, their stepmother would "tie one leg to their hands, leaving them with one leg stand for 30 minutes or more."

The boy said his father was aware of the form of punishment.

When police spoke to the children, they had what appeared to be burn marks under their chins which was caused by their bodies rubbing against the boxes. The 8-year-old victim said his stepmother added a "granola box inside the box to make it a smaller space for them not to be able to move their heads inside at all."

A search of the family's home found the boxes, along with laces to tie up the boys.

The woman admitted to police that she punished the kids with the boxes, adding that on April 30, "the kids were noisy in the morning so after eating breakfast she told the 8 and 5 year old victims to get into time out." The boys were kept inside for two hours before being allowed to eat lunch and then put inside the boxes for two additional hours.

A nurse evaluating the boys said they told her that it was difficult to breathe int he boxes and they were scared of passing out.

The woman was taken into custody on Thursday and booked into the Tooele County Jail.

A spokesperson with the Tooele County School District said parents with students at the school where the suspect works were notified of the situation to "let them know there has never been any concerns with her interactions with students or staff."