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Grandpa guilty of child abuse over hikes found shot to death

A 2006 file photo provided by the Indianapolis Metro Police Dept, shows Christopher Carlson.

file,AP Photo/Indianapolis Metro Police Dept

INDIANAPOLIS - Police in Indianapolis say a man convicted of child abuse in 2012 for forcing three grandsons to hike the Grand Canyon has been shot to death.

They say 50-year-old Christopher Carlson of Indianapolis was found shot multiple times Friday in an alley on the city's north side. Police say they have no suspects.

Two small children who investigators believe to be Carlson's children were unharmed and being cared for by a police Victim Assistance Unit.

Sgt. Christopher Wilburn said Sunday that Carlson's relatives stated he was the same man convicted of child abuse for forcing his grandsons - then ages 8, 9 and 12 - to hike 19 miles in the Grand Canyon in August 2011. A federal judge ordered him to serve 27 months in prison.

The oldest described during the trial secretly asking a hiker to call 911 toward the end of a 19-mile hike on Aug. 28 after he started throwing up, falling down because of cramping and experiencing changes to his vision.

Prosecutors told jurors that he deprived the boys of food and water during the hikes. The boys reported that they did get some water, but not always enough, and ate celery and other snacks during the hike.

Investigators have said that Carlson told them that the boys were overweight and that he thought hiking the Grand Canyon would help get them into shape.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Williams has portrayed the 45-year-old 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 fries and pizza," he said. "He wanted to get them from behind the TV, the games and fast food."

The middle grandson, who is now 10 years old, said that Carlson discovered that the kids had hidden unwanted cauliflower, asparagus and fish in their van. Carlson made them eat it even though the food had hair and other debris on it. Another time, the boy said Carlson made him eat broccoli that he had tried to flush down the toilet.

The oldest child told jurors that he threw up several times and said Carlson denied him water at various instances while sipping from a jug himself. He said his grandfather got mad whenever he started walking too slow, and at one point hit him in the face with a rock, causing his lips to bleed.

"I started crying and walking faster and he kicked me in the butt and said, `Run,"' the boy said.

The boy said Carlson was in a hurry to get to the top of the Grand Canyon so he could see the sunset.

A ranger with binoculars spotted the group during their Aug. 28 hike, 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.

Prosecutor Camille Bibles told jurors that the middle child got severe blisters on the first hike and that they hadn't fully healed by the second hike.