Grandfather accused of beating children, forcing them to hike

An Indiana man has been charged with several federal counts of child abuse for reportedly forcing his grandsons to go on harsh hikes through the Grand Canyon.

Coconino County, Ariz.

An Indiana man has been charged with several federal counts of child abuse for reportedly forcing his grandsons to go on harsh hikes through the Grand Canyon.

Christopher Carlson is accused of beating his 12, 9 and 8-year-old grandsons and making them walk on ulcerated blisters on two separate hikes as part of a cross-country vacation. He is accused of denying them food and water and of keeping them out despite intense heat.

According to court documents, rangers were first alerted to the alleged abuse by park visitors August 15. A ranger reportedly confronted Carlson and told him to take the children home because they looked exhausted. The high for that day exceeded 100 degrees.

The ranger learned that the boys had already hiked from South Rim to Plateau Point and back to Indian Gardens for a total of 7.5 miles. Carlson was adamant about taking the boys to the Colorado River and back. The ranger told Carlson that would keep them out well past midnight but Carlson said that sounded fine to him.  Carlson ended up heading back up the trail and left.

The group returned to the park Sunday and a park visitor called rangers after the oldest child secretly motioned for help. Carlson is accused of forcing the boys to run in the hot sun and threatening to make them hike faster. The youngest boy was also crying, according to court documents.

The temperature Sunday was 108 degrees. Another hiker actually died that same day due to hyperthermia and dehydration due to heat exposure.

A park ranger found the group and said Carlson shoved one of the children 13 times while hiking. The ranger said four of those shoves seemed to have happened when the boy tried to rest. Carlson also reportedly whipped one of the children with a rolled up t-shirt.

The rangers confronted Carlson and separated the boys from him.

The boys said Carlson "hit, pushed, choked, kicked, pinched, squeezed, and whipped (them). They said they were not allowed to drink water on the hike down and resorted to drinking water from the Colorado River. All three threw up on the hike multiple times."

The boys said Carlson shoved his fingers down their throats to force them to throw up and kicked them several times with his steel-toed boots.

The children were placed in protective custody and examined by a physician. The boys all showed physical evidence of ongoing abuse. The oldest boy described symptoms of potentially fatal heat stroke.

Carlson is currently being held at the Coconino County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in court September 1.
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