When the Tobiassons believed their 6-year-old adopted son needed discipline, authorities said, they would put him in a small room in the basement, often in the pitch dark, with only a mattress and blanket.
The child, who was 5 at the time, would be locked inside in the evenings and not let out until sunrise.
If he had to go to the bathroom, he would put the waste in a hole in the wall so they wouldn’t find out.
His diet, authorities said, consisted mainly of carrots, which he was forced to eat before each meal.
“If he did not finish them within a certain time limit he would not be allowed to eat the rest of the meal,” Utah County Sheriff’s Office said earlier this month in a statement. “In another instance he was disciplined for eating samples at a local store when he knew he was supposed to eat carrots before eating anything else.”
NBC affiliate KSL reported that authorities said the young child had an “orangey” tint to his skin.
Following a months-long investigation by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Brett Parker Tobiasson, 31, and his wife, Clarissa Anne Tobiasson, 27, were arrested and charged earlier this month with felony child abuse.
It’s unclear how the case came to the state’s attention. A spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services would not comment on the case.
Both have since been released from custody, according to booking records. They are set to appear in court next month — Brett Tobiasson on Sept. 14 and Clarissa Tobiasson on Sept. 28, according to court records.
An attorney for the couple could not immediately be reached for comment by The Washington Post.
Authorities said the Tobiassons, who have an infant daughter of their own, had adopted the 6-year-old boy and his 2-year-old brother.
As punishment, the parents had allegedly started locking the older boy in the basement in their home in Eagle Mountain, about 40 miles from Salt Lake City, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier this month in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Utah County.
When he started sneaking out for food, prosecutors said, the couple placed the lock on the outside of the door and trapped him inside.
“He would often kick the door, and eventually broke a hole in the door,” according to the complaint. Then the couple allegedly “took the light bulb out of the room, and because the room has no windows, the child was required to sit in total darkness.”
Eventually, prosecutors said, the child was spending several nights at a time locked in the basement.
The child was required to eat a bowl or baggy of carrots and would not be given anything else to eat or drink until the carrots were gone. If the carrots were not eaten they would be saved for the next meal and then the next meal and sometimes the next day. One night the family had ordered pizza and the child was only allowed to have carrots, and then told once all the carrots were gone he could have pizza. Later the child was given a short time to finish the carrots and was then told he did not eat them in time therefore he could not have pizza. He was told by his father he would give him pizza in the morning, however while being locked in the room he had an accident in his pants and was told because of the accident he could no longer have the pizza.
Authorities said the child has been placed with his grandmother, and his 2-year-old brother and the couple’s infant are in state custody.