An Arizona jury convicted a 45-year-old grandfather of child abuse for forcing his three young grandsons to join him on grueling hikes through the Grand Canyon in the middle of scorching summer.
Attorneys for the grandsons argued that Carlson withheld food and water from the boys on these hikes and physically abused them when they failed to keep pace.
The boys, eight, nine and 12 at the time of the abuse, all testified against their grandfather at trial. The oldest boy gave a particularly gruesome account of a trip that made him fear for his life. "I needed medical attention and I was hurting and he was hitting and pushing me and calling me fat," the boy testified. "I was scared and it was hard and I was all weak and tired and kind of hurt."
When the boy fell behind, Carlson hit him in the face with a rock that made his lips bleed. It got so bad that boy secretly begged another hiker in the canyon to call 911. That was towards the end of a 19-mile hike on a sweltering August day.
The middle grandson testified that when Carlson discovered a stash of unwanted cauliflower in the back of his van he made the boys eat the rancid food even though it was covered in hair and dirt. Carlson also allegedly made the boys eat broccoli out of the toilet.
Carlson's Attorney tried to paint his client as a health nut, concerned about his overweight grandchildren's preference for videogames and fried food. He told the jury that Carlson only allowed the boys to eat healthy food like tofu and veggie burgers. "I suppose to an 8, 9 or 10-year-old that might seem like child abuse if you like cheeseburgers, French fries and pizza," said Carlson's attorney.
The jury wasn't buying it. They found Carlson guilty of three counts of child abuse stemming from two grueling hikes on August 15th and 28th, during the height of the Arizona summer.
In law-and-order Arizona, child abuse carries a stiff penalty. Carlson may be eligible for a life sentence.