Phoenix --- A 14-year-old boy died at a boot camp where troubled youngsters were allegedly kicked and forced to eat mud.
Anthony Haynes of Phoenix died Sunday at the America's Buffalo Soldiers Re-enactors Association camp near Buckeye, where the regimen includes forced marches, in-your-face discipline and a daily diet limited to an apple, a carrot and a bowl of beans for the day.
The boy had been about a week into a five-week program.
The boy's mother, Melanie Hudson, said the camp director told her that her son had eaten dirt and refused to drink water. The Arizona Republic reported that the boy had vomited dirt.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he was treating the death as suspicious and awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause. ''There have been some serious allegations of abuse at that boot camp,'' he said.
Authorities returned about 50 children to their parents.
The organization that runs the camp did not return calls seeking comment Monday and Tuesday. But camp director Charles Long told KSAZ-TV: ''Our camp is a rough camp, but we endure it. When the facts come out about what happened, it's not the components of this program that's the problem.''
The camp is operated by a private organization and is for troubled youngsters who are sent there by their parents.
The sheriff said detectives had learned that the children slept outdoors in sleeping bags on concrete slabs and that they had been under the supervision of 17- and 18-year-old staff members since at least last Wednesday. No medical personnel were at the camp, Arpaio said.
''If you do have this type of environment, you have to make sure it's humane,'' he said.
Unidentified former drill instructors at the camp told the Republic that youths were kicked and forced to swallow mud.
The boy's father, Gettis Haynes Jr. of Hannibal, Mo., told the newspaper that he blames the camp for his son's death and himself for sending the boy there.
''At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. It was probably the biggest mistake I ever made in my whole life,'' he said.
The boy's mother told KPNX-TV that her son was a shoplifter with anger problems. She told the newspaper that she enrolled him in the program after he slashed her tires.
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 instructors. They said they were handcuffed together. Authorities said no juveniles were injured, and no arrests were made.
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