Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Teens In Wilderness Program Say They Were Punched, Abused Camp In Colorado Disbanded After 2 Get Flesh-Eating Illness

Associated Press

Participants in a character-building wilderness program for troubled teen-agers say they were punched in the face, slammed into trees and made to eat their vomit.

The camp in remote northwestern Colorado was disbanded Monday after two of the 30 teen-agers contracted a flesh-eating infection.

Lauren Lee Wittman, 13, of St. Louis said she and other campers were forced to carry their own excrement in their pockets. When investigators responded in surprise, “I pulled it out,” she said Thursday.

Rio Blanco County Sheriff Phil Stubblefield is investigating the allegations of abuse at the Flat Tops Wilderness area camp, operated by the Pathfinders Wilderness Program.

No arrests have been made, but Stubblefield said the teens’ stories are too consistent to dismiss.

The teens said counselors spit in their faces, screamed at them and challenged them to fight. They said they were ordered to tell friends and family they were OK.

Wittman said counselors punished those who broke rules by making them sleep on a hill with no blanket, and waking them up every hour.

“All the fat lazy kids were physically abused. They punched them in the face or picked them up by the legs and walked them into a tree and then said, ‘Whoops, sorry,”’ Wittman said. She said the chief counselor “was really scary. He’s a big guy.”

Pathfinders Wilderness Program, which is based in Corrales, N.M., has refused to comment.

The 30 teens, ages 14 to 17, were sent to the camp about 45 miles west of Meeker, for a two- to 12-week stint to resolve disciplinary problems. They are from 17 states. A six-week session cost $12,500.