Grand Canyon Torture Hikes; Police Report Describes Boys' Summer of Abuse by Grandpa
Three boys whose grandfather forced them on torturous marches across tough Grand Canyon trails told rangers their entire summer had been filled with travel and abuse.
The three boys -- 8, 9 and 12 -- told how their grandpa, Christopher Carlson of Indianapolis, injured them repeatedly during trips to various states, Mexico, Jamaica and several South American countries.
It's unknown where the boys reside or why they were with their grandfather, who's now in jail in connection with possible child abuse charges. A police report mentions that the childrens' mother may have known of some of the abuse. The 9-year-old told a ranger that his mother had told Carlson "that the boys 'better be getting air' if he is choking them."
The report, which you can read below, goes into sickening detail of how the maniacal grandpa pushed the boys to the brink of death up and down the canyon in temperatures that soared over 100 degrees.
As Law Enforcement Ranger Elizabeth Aurnou patrolled the Bright Angel Trail on August 15, several hikers told her they'd noticed three African-American boys being driven mercilessly by the older man, who happens to be white. Aurnou ran into the group at about 5 p.m. in Indian Gardens, a rest area and campground located 4.5 miles down from the South Rim.
The boys looked exhausted and Aurnou learned that they'd already hiked from the South Rim to Plateau Point and back to Indian Gardens, a burly 7.5 miles on the steep trail. Carlson told the ranger the boys were fine. He declined food she offered and wouldn't let the boys cool off in the water fountain. Carlson was "aggressive" and said he intended to take the boys down to the river, then back up to the rim. When a shocked Aurnou told him they couldn't possibly finish that hike until after midnight, Carlson said that "sounded fine to him."
Aurnou warned him that she'd seek a charge of child endangerment if he tried it. Bitching about how he'd paid the park entrance fee and now wouldn't get his money's worth, Carlson reluctantly took the kids up the trail to the rim.
Two weeks later, Carlson and the boys were back on the Bright Angel. Once again, Carson ran into a female ranger who believed he was pushing the boys too hard. They were on their way up from the river, nearing the end of a 19-mile hike on a day that was so hot, another hiker died in an unrelated incident.
Carlson wouldn't let her talk to the boys, and she backed off and got on the radio for help. Soon after, another Grand Canyon hiker saw the group and used a rest-house emergency phone to report that the kids were hyperventilating and that one of them had asked for help.
Because of the risk of a violent confrontation on the narrow, cliff-hanging trail, rangers decided to wait for Carlson and the boys to get to the South Rim.
A ranger with binoculars spotted Carlson shove the 12-year-old more than a dozen times, typically when the boy tried to stop and rest. Carlson was also seen whipping the boy with a rolled-up T-shirt as they marched.
Finally, rangers stopped Carlson at the trailhead and separated him from the boys.
They related how their grandpa had repeatedly "hit, pushed, choked, kicked, pinched, squeezed and whipped" them. He'd reportedly told them to "look happy" and say they were fine when they passed other hikers. He withheld water even as he drank heartily in front of them. He gave them only a bit of celery and hummus to eat.
The boys vomited and suffered other effects of heat exhaustion during the grueling August 28 hike the river and back. A nurse found severe blisters, scars, cuts, bruises and other signs of abuse on the kids. They also had severely chafed groins because Carlson didn't allow them to wear underwear.
Carlson was booked into jail and the kids placed in protective custody.
If Carlson was "training" them for something, we don't want to know what the main event was gonna be.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.