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Teenager's Boot Camp Death Investigated

Tragedy: The boy, 14, collapsed in Arizona desert heat during strict regimen for at-risk children.

July 04, 2001|From Associated Press

BUCKEYE, Ariz. — By the time paramedics arrived at the isolated patch of desert Sunday night, 14-year-old Anthony Haynes was lying motionless in the back of a pickup.

He wasn't breathing. He had no pulse. Counselors at the boot camp for at-risk children were attempting CPR. Paramedics used a defibrillator, but Haynes never regained consciousness.

"They said he collapsed, that he had been throwing up mud," said the teenager's mother, Melanie Hudson, recalling a phone call she received from the camp that night. "They told me he had been eating dirt that day, that they were trying to hydrate him and that he kept spitting the water back out.

"The way they were talking, they weren't making it sound as serious as it was. So when I got to the hospital, it was shock."

Haynes was one of about 50 children participating in the America's Buffalo Soldiers Re-Enactors Assn. camp, 40 miles west of Phoenix. The regimen includes forced marches, wearing black uniforms in triple-digit temperatures, in-your-face discipline and a daily diet limited to an apple, a carrot and a bowl of beans for the day.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is investigating the boy's death and allegations of abuse at the camp. Authorities removed the children from the camp Monday and returned them to their parents.

A year ago, participants in another boot camp operated by the same group reported that they were kicked, choked and subjected to other cruelty by drill instructors. They also said they were handcuffed together. Authorities said no juveniles were injured, and no arrests were made.

The organization that runs the camp referred calls to attorney Larry Hammond. Hammond did not return messages left by Associated Press.

Haynes was about a week into a five-week, $2,000 program, where he was sent by his mother because of behavioral problems.

Hudson said she had been taking the boy to the camp for Saturday sessions and some three-day weekend sessions for some time. He had just completed probation in May for shoplifting and was in therapy for anger management and depression, but when he slashed her tires, Hudson said, she decided he needed the full-time program.

"He needed guidance and discipline and that's what I thought I was getting," Hudson said Tuesday. "He didn't resist going. He told me he knew he had done something wrong and said, 'I understand why you're sending me.' He told me, 'I'm going to show you and I'm going to make you proud of me.' "

Hudson and the boy's father, Gettis Haynes Jr. of Hannibal, Mo., were awaiting autopsy results Tuesday.

While paramedics were working on Haynes on Sunday, Bill Lanford, chief of the Buckeye Valley Fire District, said some children cried while camp counselors ordered them to lie down on the concrete slab where their sleeping bags were arranged.

"It was very disturbing," he said. "We were working a code and the counselors were more interested in disciplining the kids and telling them to lie down."

Lanford said the children were dressed in black long-sleeved shirts and sweatpants. Temperatures that day had climbed as high as 114 degrees.

"This is just mind-boggling and it's the most awful thing any parent can ever face and deal with," said the boy's father, Gettis Haynes. "My boy was only 14 years old."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said detectives learned that the children had been under the supervision of 17- and 18-year-old staff members since at least Wednesday. No medical personnel were at the camp, he said.

The camp is in the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area, a remote desert location with sparse vegetation, no shade and dirt roads.

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