Death of 12 Year- Old Boy at ‘Troubled Teen’ Wilderness Camp in NC Ruled a Homicide

A 12-year-old, vulnerable boy lost his life on his first night at a troubled-teens camp due to a tragic incident.

The coroners have determined that the boy was sealed up and left to suffocate in a faulty sleeping bag-like tent, leading to his death, which has now been ruled as a homicide.

The young pre-teen, Clark Harman, was found dead by camp staff at the Trails Carolina wilderness camp on the morning of February 3. According to the coroner’s report, he had already entered rigor mortis by the time he was discovered.

The report mentions that the boy suffered from ADHD, migraines, and social challenges. He had arrived at the Lake Toxaway site just hours before after being transported from his New York home by two escorts hired by his affluent parents.

The camp staff secured him in a bivouac described as “burrito-style” by former Trails campers. They laid him on a thick plastic tarp, wrapped the bivy around him, and sealed it with a lock and alarm to prevent his escape.

When the mesh door of the bivy broke, the staff decided to seal it entirely with its outer layer, limiting airflow and preventing them from seeing Harman as he passed away during the night, as concluded by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in its recently published report.

Jeremy Whitworth has been the co-executive director of Trails Carolina camp since 2013 

Clark Harman, 12, was found dead in a bivy bag ‘burrito,’ similar to the one above, wrapped in a plastic tarpaulin and sealed with a lock and alarm on his first night at Trails Carolina in February this year.

The North Carolina Attorney General is currently contemplating pressing charges against the camp, which had its license revoked last month and has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging neglect and abuse.

Former camp attendees have reported that they narrowly escaped with their lives after being trapped in the camp’s sleeping equipment.

‘I immediately went through a list in my head of the ways that I was treated that could have caused his death,’ former camper Vic Mitterando, who spent three months there in 2017 and 2018, told local outlet WRAL.

‘I was on burrito for two weeks and I remember not being able to sleep because I could not move, I could not breathe very well, it was just like a cocoon,’ he said.

‘We would lay on a tarp and then they would wrap it over us,’ said another former resident, who attended as a 14-year-old.

‘When I heard about the death at Trails my first reaction was, “I made it out but he didn’t”,’ the girl, who did not want to be identified, told the station.

The staff informed investigators that they first removed Harman from the bivy when they noticed he was ‘restless and mumbling in his sleep’, as indicated in the coroner’s report. After he fell asleep outside, they awakened him and instructed him to return inside, re-securing it with an alarm. Within two hours of being placed back inside, he was observed moving within the bivy, and ‘routine checks’ were conducted throughout the night.

Vic Mitterando, who spent three months at the camp in 2017 and 2018, said he was confined to the ‘burrito’ for two weeks 

One former 14-year-old camp inmate said some had been lucky to escape with their lives 

The camp in an isolated area of North Carolina is a 13-hour drive from the fated victim’s home in New York

Harman’s ‘burrito’ was inside a lodging and an initial medical report noted he had been found  frothing at the mouth and stiff with rigor mortis

‘The counselors could not check on him as they should due to the opaque nature of the outer panel, preventing them from potentially noting the problem and delivering aid before he died,’ the coroner wrote.

‘It should be noted that a common warning on commercially available bivy products indicates that the outer, weather resistant opening should not be fully secured as it may lead to condensation and breathing restriction,’ he added.

‘This information was obtained on basic web search.’

When the counselors opened the bivy the following morning, they discovered Harman lying with his head at the bottom of the bag. They attempted to revive him, but emergency medical responders informed them that he had likely been deceased for several hours prior to their arrival.

The camp, which costs over $700 a day, gained attention in 2014 when Alec Lansing, 17, was discovered dead in a nearby stream after being missing for two weeks.

Following Harman’s passing, Trails faced a lawsuit from former camper Gertrude Siegel, who alleged that staff ignored her requests for assistance after she was sexually assaulted by another camper when she was 12 years old in 2016.

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