1. Archive

Nine charged after teen's camp death

Nine people from a wilderness therapy program for troubled youths face abuse and neglect charges in the death of a 16-year-old boy.

Aaron Bacon of Phoenix died March 31 of peritonitis, 30 days after his parents enrolled him in the program of hiking and camping in the Utah desert.

Officials of North Star Expeditions, which operates the program, said Bacon arrived in bad health and his death was unavoidable. Prosecutors say he was fine when he joined the group and didn't receive proper medical care when he got sick.

The criminal complaint said counselors berated Bacon for being lazy and faking illness.

The nine people charged Tuesday were released on their own recognizance, pending a court hearing in December. Among those charged was North Star's co-owner and operator, Lance Jagger.

Jagger was a field director of a similar program, the Challenger Foundation, when a 16-year-old Florida girl died of heat stroke in 1990. Negligent homicide and abuse charges against him were dropped when he agreed to testify against program founder Stephen Cartisano. Cartisano was acquitted.

An autopsy on Bacon indicated he died from acute peritonitis. Perforations were found in Bacon's large intestine, which allowed the contents of his digestive system to leak into his abdominal cavity, according to the complaint.

Bacon couldn't stand up straight, couldn't control his bowels, was extremely weak and was having trouble seeing, the complaint said. He went without food for 11 days and had no blanket or sleeping bag for 14 days, despite an average low temperature of 32 degrees, according to the charges.

Cyrene Jagger, spokeswoman for North Star and Jagger's sister, said Bacon wasn't denied food and it was "his choice" whether to eat the food offered.