A Deadly Game?

State officials say boy died playing around, despite his recent suicide threat

ADJC staff reported to investigators that Camacho was upbeat and happy at school the day of April 11, the class clown. He was surprised with a room change later that day. Instead of living with another boy, he would now have his own room. After his death, it would be revealed that another boy was supposed to live alone, not Camacho. But Camacho moved his mattress a few doors down and told staff he was happy to get room number 23.

Later, staff member Everett Morris told investigators, "Putting Youth Camacho in room 23 was just a mistake. It was nothing more than a mistake. I mean in hindsight, Camacho would not have done what he did or at least would not have died if he had not been in a room by himself."

Camacho's new next-door neighbor recalls, "Youth Camacho seemed to be in a good mood. He said he was going to work on his workbook . . . He wanted to use my book and answers. I was going to slide them under the door to his room but never got the chance to."

Christopher Camacho (right) and his grandfather, in happier times.
Christopher Camacho (right) and his grandfather, in happier times.


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in the "Slammed" series - A look at conditions within the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections

That evening, sometime after 7 p.m., Youth Corrections Officer Martin Jaquez walked by Camacho's room, and Camacho told him to go away, that there was something he didn't want him to see. Jaquez confiscated a D battery, a green dry-erase pen and a plastic pen with black ink in it. Camacho was furious.

One boy told investigators he heard Camacho banging on his door and yelling, "Fuck, I'm never going to leave this unit because I'm always getting in trouble over stupid shit." When Jaquez tried to talk to him, Camacho yelled, "Fuck you, get away from me, I don't want to talk to you."

About an hour later, some boys, including Camacho's next-door neighbor, were returning from chapel.

The neighbor says he looked through the small window to Camacho's cell and saw that he had a sheet knotted around his neck and wasn't moving.

"I said, `Look, look at this guy.'"

Jaquez recalls, "I looked through the window in the door and saw a sheet around Youth Camacho's neck like he was hanging. His head was back, and his face was kind of sideways to the door. I did not notice where his feet were, and I did not notice his clothing. I never saw his genitalia exposed. I would have remembered that.

"I just remember putting my arms around him just below his hips and lifting him. I reached up with my right hand and pulled the sheet from around his neck. I don't remember if his sheet had a knot, but the sheet just came loose when I pulled on it."

Jaquez put Camacho on the floor, called for 911 and began CPR. Camacho was pronounced dead an hour later at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix. ADJC staff logs show that it had been about 20 minutes between the last time someone had checked on Camacho and the time he was found hanging. Regulations require a room check every 30 minutes.

Christopher Camacho died in his ADJC-issued yellow tee shirt, dark jeans and white sneakers. Shoelaces, another possible hanging instrument, were found in his cell.

In the pocket of Camacho's jeans was a note to another boy at Adobe Mountain, telling him of the room change and asking for some "nutty," which is slang for pornographic photographs, and four or five gloves. (The boys use the gloves to masturbate.)

The note is signed, "Your Partner in Crime."

The real reason Christopher Camacho tied that sheet around his neck on April 11 died with him.

But it is clear from the investigation that boys at Adobe Mountain School regularly choke themselves for fun. There are many examples in the investigative report, including one from a boy in the Freedom cottage who knew Camacho:

"I have passed myself out three different times with the use of a sheet. I would tie a loose knot in one end of a sheet and put the knot in a vent that is above the door. I would then tighten the knot so it would not come out of the vent.

"I would then tie a slipknot in the other end of the sheet with the sheet around my neck. I did it this way because it is a better total body high than passing myself out with my hands. My roommate would keep me from hanging myself.

"One time I did it over and over again by my self. I would put the sheet in the vent like before and then put the loop around my neck. I stood on a chair and with the rope around my neck, I stepped from the chair onto the floor. I stood on the floor until my feet started to tingle and then got back on the chair. I did this over and over again."

The boy says Camacho never talked about getting high by passing out. He believes that Camacho didn't mean to kill himself, but just wanted attention.

The boy says he won't choke himself again. "I saw Youth Camacho's face when they brought him out of his room," he told investigators, according to the report. "His was between light and dark blue."

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