Hell Camp: How Did Steve Cartisano Die?

If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that therapy camps for youngsters almost always do more harm than good since their core operations strategy is negative reinforcements. This much has actually even been evidenced in Netflix’s ‘Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare,’ a documentary that places special focus on the pioneer of such wilderness programs for troubled adolescents. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about this infamous entrepreneur — Stephen “Steve” Anthony Cartisano — as well as his ultimate woeful fate, we’ve got all the necessary details for you.

Who is Steve Cartisano?

Although born on August 15, 1955, in Modesto, California, to Bonnie Lou Coley and Anthony Cartisano, Steve was reportedly raised by another couple altogether until he was around two years old. That’s because his birth parents had initially given him up for adoption before suddenly backtracking, only for his ensuing years to then be far from comfortable, stable, or happy. “My mother was a heroin addict, spent time in prison,” he’d once said, per the original. “She was killed when I was 17. My father, he had a pretty hot temper. His way of handling problems was to smack you around.”

Steve thus apparently had a tough time throughout junior high and high school, which is why he decided to enlist in the Air Force instead of joining his father’s concrete business upon graduation. That’s where he really found himself as not just a man but also a leader — he was a part of the Aerospace Para Rescue Recovery Unit and regarded as “one of the best-trained survivalists.” It hence comes as little surprise that upon his discharge, he decided to establish a wilderness survival program industry since he knew first-hand that such experiences could be transformative.

Steve’s first venture was actually The Challenger Foundation in Utah, where he’d already settled with his wife Deborah “Debbie” Lee Carr (married December 15, 1978) as well as their four kids. His goal was admittedly to help troubled teens escape their bad habits by essentially making them earn their survival — basic privileges, food, water — which allegedly initially worked wonders. However, according to the documentary, things changed once the money started rolling in as the business quickly expanded beyond what he could’ve imagined, and so did his focus/interests.

It turns out Steve’s luxurious lifestyle ostensibly hindered him from managing his work well, which, when combined with a few untrained counselors, led to several issues by the time 1990 rolled around. This included the death of a 16-year-old girl named Kristen Chase as well as claims of child abuse, leading to a lawsuit of negligent homicide plus six counts of abuse against him and his company. They were both eventually acquitted on all counts, yet it did unofficially result in them being blacklisted from the entire industry in every major city owing to the infamy now surrounding him.

Steve thus launched HealthCare America in the island territories before having a hand in the Caribbean workings of Pacific Coast Academy too, but neither of these institutions were allegedly licensed. And it was here that the negligence and abuse of teens seemingly grew to nearly unbearable extents — there were even allegations the former Air Force officer himself tried to groom young girls. Regardless, it’s imperative to note that he was never once found responsible for any non-tax or non-licensing criminal wrongdoing, plus his family insists that although they’re not dismissing any assertions, they do not align with their memories of him.

How Did Steve Cartisano Die?

It was May 4, 2019, when Stephen “Steve” Anthony Cartisano passed away in his Durant, Oklahoma, home surrounded by his loving family — he was 63 at the time. As per reports, he’d been battling stage four colon cancer for the past six or seven years, yet he sadly passed away from an obviously unexpected heart attack. In the last few years of his life, he’d purportedly been focusing only on his role as a grandfather as well as an active member of the Choctaw Tribe and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Read More: Lance “Horsehair” Jaggar: Where is Challenger Camp Field Director Now?

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