2nd boy testifies at grandfather's abuse trial
PHOENIX - February 16, 2012 (WPVI) -- A boy testified Thursday that his grandfather did give him and his two brothers food and water before taking them on two hikes into the Grand Canyon - "but not a lot."
The middle grandson of Christopher Alan Carlson told jurors at his grandfather's trial that the worst part of the trip was when he threw up at the bottom of the canyon and the pain from blisters on his feet.
Carlson, 45, of Indianapolis, is charged with six counts of felony child abuse and faces life in prison if convicted. The trial opened in Phoenix federal court on Wednesday and resumed Thursday.
Prosecutors have alleged that Carlson deprived his grandsons of food and water and pushed, choked and repeatedly kicked them during hikes on Aug. 15 and Aug. 28, when the temperature soared to 108 degrees.
Prosecutor Camille Bibles told jurors Wednesday that the boy got the blisters on the first hike and that they hadn't fully healed by the second hike.
She also said that the blisters were so bad at the end of the second hike they had turned into ulcers. The boy had to undergo treatment usually reserved for burn patients and couldn't wear shoes for weeks, Bibles said.
The boy said that he and his brothers boys got in trouble, Carlson took it out on them physically and told them not to tell anyone about it.
"He said if we told about the bad stuff he would get mad at us," he said. "He would smack us and stuff."
But under questioning from defense attorney Jeffrey Williams, the boy said he loved his grandpa and knows his grandpa loves him back, and that he took the boys to the Grand Canyon for exercise, not as a punishment.
The youngest brother testified Wednesday that the boys were kicked during the scorching hikes and that his grandfather also hit him in the face, causing a nose bleed.
A criminal complaint said Carlson put his grandsons - who were 12, 9 and 8 years old at the time - in circumstances "likely to cause death or serious bodily injuries."
But investigators have also said that Carlson told them that the boys were overweight and that he thought hiking the Grand Canyon would help get them into shape.
Williams portrayed Carlson as an active health nut who had a firm hand and 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.
"I suppose to an 8, 9 or 10-year-old that might seem like child abuse if you like cheeseburgers, French fires and pizza," he said. "He wanted to get them from behind the TV, the games and fast food."
The middle grandson said Thursday that Carlson found once discovered that the kids had hidden cauliflower, asparagus and fish in their van, but made them eat it even though the food had hair and other debris on it.
Another time, he said Carlson made him eat broccoli that he had tried to flush down the toilet.
He also said that when the boys swam too far in the ocean on a trip in Mexico, Carlson kicked him in the leg and head and repeatedly kicked his older brother and threw him to the ground.
The youngest of the three brothers testified Wednesday that his grandfather took the boys on many "awesome" adventurous trips. In between the two hikes, Carlson took the boys on a tour of the Hoover Dam, to rides atop the Stratosphere hotel and a Criss Angel magic show in Las Vegas, and to Disneyland in California.
A ranger with binoculars spotted the group during their 19-mile hike on Aug. 28, 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.
The oldest child is also expected to testify in the trial.
arizona, child abuse, trial, national/world
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