Ronald Chase, whose daughter died in the Utah wilderness four years ago, says he has finally found some justice.
The insurance company for Challenger, the "wilderness-therapy" program she was participating in when she died, has agreed to settle Chase's wrongful-death lawsuit for $260,000."It has been an emotionally draining four years, to say the least," says Chase, a New York psychiatrist.
In June 1990, Chase's ex-wife, Sharon Fuqua, enrolled their daughter, Kristin Chase, 16, into the controversial Challenger program without his knowledge.
She died June 26, 1990, of heatstroke while hiking on Kaiparowits Plateau in Kane County.
A subsequent investigation by the state Department of Social Services eventually shut Challenger down and led to tougher requirements for "wilderness-therapy" programs for troubled teens.
An investigation by the county led to misdemeanor charges against Challenger and its founder, Steve Cartisano. A jury dismissed the case in May 1992.
The only hope for justice, Chase said, lay in the wrongful-death suit he filed in U.S. District Court against Challenger and Cartisano.
That case is now settled in the courts, but Chase said he must still contend with Fuqua over the proceeds. Under the probate court requirements, she is entitled to some of the settlement, but Chase said he will fight it.
"It's ironic that the mother sending her daughter off to a death camp gets the reward from the settlement," he said.
Fuqua, who has moved out of the country since the incident, could not be reached for comment. She told the Deseret News in 1990, however, that she supported Challenger despite her daughter's death.
Chase said he intends to give the settlement proceeds to his two sons, one of whom is a rock musician in New York and the other a private investigator in Florida.
"They need help. Especially the rock star," he said.
The settlement with Chase is one of three lawsuits against Challenger that have been resolved, said William Hansen, attorney for Challenger's insurance company, the Illinois-based Comprehensive Insurers Market Inc.
Two others were recently settled for an undisclosed amount, said Michael Mohrman, attorney for Bryan Heller and David Foster, both of New York, and their mothers, who sued Challenger in federal court for "personal and emotional injury."
"I'm happy they're over with, but I'd like to have taken them to trial," Mohrman said. "I wanted the public to find out exactly what occurred (in the Challenger program)."
Mohrman said the case of a third client, Tim Temple, is set to go to trial on Dec. 27.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Cartisano remains a mystery. News reports in June indicated he had last been investigated in Puerto Rico. Prior to that, he and his program had been forced out of Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.