Child Dies, Police Report “Suspicious” Investigation

( – Less than 24 hours after arriving, a 12-year-old boy has died at a North Carolina wilderness therapy camp. Police have indicated that the nature of the incident looks suspicious, noting that the camp hasn’t been completely cooperative in the investigation. The coroner hasn’t yet released an official cause of death, but they did state that the child didn’t appear to have died of natural causes.

Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office shared a press release on Facebook on February 7 detailing the information it has so far. It states that a 12-year-old male was transported by two men to the camp on February 2 “per parents,” and staff assigned him a cabin after intake. At 8:10 a.m. the following morning, someone from the camp called 911 to report that the boy wasn’t breathing.

Responders found a CPR mask at the scene, and they also attempted to initiate life-saving efforts, but they stopped when they realized the child had been dead for a while. Deputies began processing the area for evidence at around 9 a.m., and they transported the body to a nearby hospital for a medical examiner’s preliminary evaluation. Because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the boy’s death, investigators had the body sent to Winston-Salem for an autopsy, which occurred on February 6. The results are still pending.

WBTV News reports that Trails Carolina, located in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, has been in hot water before. Kathleen Reilly, who attended the camp when she was 16, claims the conditions there are “beyond cruel,” forcing kids to live in tents for weeks straight without any access to basic hygiene.

Between 2010 and 2019, the camp received over 50 citations for numerous violations — including the death of a 17-year-old in its care, who became a victim of hypothermia in 2017 after attempting to run away. A former employee, Jonathan Hyde, came forward stating that he had three days of training before receiving his first group of children to oversee, adding that most of the people working there aren’t even licensed therapists.

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