PHOENIX — A grandfather was found guilty of child abuse Wednesday for forcing his grandsons on grueling hikes in the Grand Canyon in searing August heat, withholding food and water and choking and kicking them during the long treks.
All three of the boys testified during the trial. The oldest described secretly asking a hiker to call 911 toward the end of a 19-mile hike Aug. 28 after he started throwing up, falling down because of cramping and experiencing changes to his vision.
"I needed medical attention and I was hurting and he was hitting and pushing me and calling me fat," said the boy. "I was scared and it was hard and I was all weak and tired and kind of hurt."
The Arizona jury found Christopher Alan Carlson of Indianapolis guilty of three out of six charges of child abuse stemming from the Aug. 15 and Aug. 28 hikes.
A criminal complaint had said Carlson put his grandsons in circumstances "likely to cause death or serious bodily injuries."
Defense attorney Jeffrey Williams has portrayed the 45-year-old Carlson as an active health nut who wanted to show the boys the world. Like anyone after a long hike, the boys were tired, hungry and thirsty, but Carlson only allowed the boys to eat healthy food like tofu, hummus and veggie burgers, Williams said in his opening statement.
A ranger with binoculars spotted the group during their Aug. 28 hike, the same day a man died on another trail from heat exposure. The ranger reported seeing Carlson shoving the oldest boy and whipping him with a rolled-up T-shirt.
Rangers fed the boys and gave them water after one showed symptoms of heat stroke and the other two had signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Investigators said the boys were covered in cuts, bruises and scars that backed up their stories.
Carlson is scheduled to be sentenced June 1. Because the jury convicted him on the three lesser offenses, it was unclear if he could face up to life in prison.