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BLUFFDALE -- An Eagle Mountain couple serving time in prison for child abuse explained their actions during parole hearings.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports separate hearings were held for Mary Heath and Sekoa Aiono at the Utah State Prison.
According to the Tribune, the two said locking Heath's 8-year-old nephew and 9-year-old niece in bathrooms nearly naked was to protect them from hurting each other. They said they were trying to help the children, who had behavioral problems. Heath had legal custody of the children at the time.
Heath claims she was trying to help them, not punish them. She also said she scalded the boy's fingers to keep him from using them inappropriately.
Aiono says he hit the children with a belt but doesn't know why the kids were malnourished. Police say the children nearly died from starvation. They were discovered after the girl escaped from a bathroom window last October.
Heath and Aiono both pleaded guilty to four felony counts of child abuse and could spend up to 20 years in prison. The parole board is expected to issue a ruling in a few weeks. It could set a parole date, set a date for another hearing, or deny parole.
Earlier this year prosecutors said the children were living with a foster family and doing well.