Grandfather charged with felony child endangerment, witnesses sought


GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. – Criminal Charges were filed in US District Court, District of Arizona, on Aug. 30, against Christopher Carlson for six felony counts of endangering the lives of his three minor grandsons, ages 8, 9 and 12.

National Park Service investigators are seeking additional information on two separate incidents of possible child abuse in Grand Canyon National Park, both involving this family. Investigators are asking anyone who was on the Bright Angel Trail on August 15 or 28, who saw or may have seen Carlson and his three grandchildren, and believes he or she may have information regarding this case to call the Grand Canyon Silent Witness Line at 928-638-7767.

Maureen Oltrogge, Public Affairs Officer for Grand Canyon National Park, told St. George News on Sept. 1, that no interviews are being given at this time on the matter.  No booking photo has been released  as this story goes to publication.

However, the affidavit of Christopher A. Smith, NPS Special Agent, in support of the Criminal Complaint, (United States of America vs. Christopher Carlson, USDC, District of Arizona, Case Number 11-04243M-001-PCT-MEA) is lengthy and details the alleged abuse.

According to the affidavit, the incidents seminal to the charges happened in August when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. The affidavit states that Ranger Aurnou, the law enforcement ranger on patrol at the Indian Gardens area along the Bright Angel Trail within Grand Canyon National Park, had received reports from visitors throughout the afternoon of Aug. 28 about Carlson and the three boys because they looked exhausted.

Among other visitors concerns, the affidavit relates a call from the emergency phone at the Three Mile Rest House.

“The caller was a hiker on the trail who was reporting an adult white male with three African American children who passed by at a very fast pace. The children were [hyperventilating] and one [of] the children told the caller ‘call the agency’ or ‘call the emergency.’ The description given by the caller matched Carlson and the boys.”

The affidavit indicates that when Aurnou encountered them, and saw “the boys all looked exhausted and overheated,” she approached Carlson with her concern, showing them how to cool off in the water fountain and offering them food.  Her urgings were met with defiance and refusal. Aurnou assessed from conversing with the boys and by observation that food and water deprivation, and physical exhaustion, were being forced upon the boys. Additional attempts by Aurnou to confront Carlson are detailed, indicating that Carlson’s resistance accelerated towards aggression. Aurnou alerted other rangers within the park and observation and intervention efforts ensued.

Eventually the rangers were able to separate the boys from Carlson and the affidavit swears that “the boys told Ranger Aurnou of being hit, pushed, choked, kicked, pinched, squeezed, and whipped. 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.”

Carlson was ultimately arrested and the boys were placed in the care of Arizona Child Protective Services. The affidavit further avers:

“The boys were seen at The Safe Child Center, an accredited child advocacy center, where they underwent forensic interviews and forensic medical exams. During the interviews all three boys disclosed chronic physical abuse by Carlson. During the forensic medical exam all three boys showed physical evidence of ongoing abuse including injuries sustained at different times with different levels of healing. These injuries occurred over the course of the summer in various states within the United States as well in Mexico, Jamaica, and countries in Central America. With regard to abuse within Grand Canyon National Park, the boys were able to describe incidents which occurred on both trips to the park, one on or about August 14 and 15,2011, and one on August 28,2011, when Carlson was ultimately arrested.”

The examination of one of the boys elucidated “all of these events [those seminal to the Complaint filed against Carlson] took place between the South Rim and Phantom Ranch, along the Bright Angel Trail corridor.”

These allegations are excerpted from a 21-page affidavit, are not exhaustive and are not proven. Persons arrested and charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

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Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.



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