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Couple gets jail for chaining child

Each will serve 6 months for abusing boy

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A Magna couple convicted of abusing and chaining a nearly naked 12-year-old boy to a concrete block in their basement will spend six months in jail with the possibility of work-release privileges if jail officials allow it.

They also will be jailed one at a time so they can care for the other five children at home.

Their attorney later said they plan to appeal the conviction.

Mark Gray, 40, the child's father, and Christina Gray, 36, the stepmother, were convicted of second-degree felony child abuse last year after a jury deliberated for one hour.

Witnesses said the boy was kept in his underwear nearly all the time except when at school, was deprived of food and abused in a variety of ways. The boy testified that Christina Gray poured jalapeno sauce in his eyes, stabbed him in the head repeatedly with a fork, hit him with a board and poured water on the floor where he slept and then turned a fan on him.

"She said she hates me," the boy said during his trial.

The Grays on Monday were each sentenced to one to 15 years in prison, but the prison term was suspended and the jail sentence imposed, following recommendations in a pre-sentence report.

Their attorney, Barton Warren, said the Grays made bad choices but were loving and compassionate parents who were in over their heads with a child with behavioral problems who had been abused previously by his birth mother. They chained the child simply to keep him from running away — and that was after they thought they had the blessing of a law enforcement officer, Warren said.

Warren recited a litany of misdeeds he attributed to the boy and said the Grays had been turned away when they sought help from various agencies.

A tearful Christina Gray apologized to the boy and the other children for the "poor choices made with regard to (the child)." Mark Gray also apologized and said restraining the boy was the only way to protect him from running away.

But prosecutor Paul Parker said the Grays committed a crime, not a mistake.

Parker said an adult witness, Alyce Johnson, testified the boy was chained in his underwear long before a sheriff's deputy visited the house and supposedly said it was OK to restrain the child with handcuffs and a chain.

As for the idea of a police officer giving the go-ahead to restrain the child, the police officer in question denied it at trial.

"I never suggested chaining the child or handcuffing him," Salt Lake County Deputy James Timpson testified.

Parker also said that since the boy is now in the custody of his aunt and uncle who love him and do not abuse him, he is thriving — never running away, doing better in school and taking part in family activities such as fishing and camping.

Invited by 3rd District Judge Robin Reese, the boy stood awkwardly before a podium, glanced down at the floor repeatedly and remaining silent except for an aside comment made later to the prosecutor.

"The only thing he wants to say," Parker told the court, "is why are they getting six months?"

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com