By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Indiana man who forced his three young grandsons to take brutal marches through the Grand Canyon during scorching summer heat was convicted of child abuse in federal court on Wednesday, authorities said.
Officials at the U.S. District Court in Phoenix said Christopher Alan Carlson, 45, was convicted on three of six felony child abuse charges in connection with one of two tortuous hikes he took last August with the boys, then ages 8, 9 and 12 years old.
Carlson was indicted on the charges last September after leading the three youths on two long, get-tough hikes with little food and water amid temperatures that soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Authorities said he marched and ran the boys over dangerous terrain, hitting and kicking them with his steel-toed boots along the way.
Investigators said Carlson told them that the boys were out-of-shape, and that the hikes were intended to make them more physically fit.
All three boys testified during the trial that began two weeks ago in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, chronicling their two arduous August journeys.
In court papers, the boys said they were instructed to say they were fine when asked how they were by passing hikers. All three said they vomited during the hikes. Signs of physical abuse were present when they were examined.
News reports said the criminal investigation began after one of the boys appealed for help to another hiker behind his grandfather's back. The hiker then reported the incident to park rangers who intervened.
The jury deliberated for less than a day before finding Carlson guilty of criminally negligent child abuse that was likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.
Prosecutors said Carlson could face life in prison when sentenced on June 14. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment late on Wednesday.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Cynthia Johnston)