PARK CITY, UT—Following a probe into activities that allegedly occurred inside a couch-cushion fort located in the basement of the Nelson home, Keith, 11, has been accused of mistreatment, abuse of power, and sitting on his 8-year-old brother Mark's head for up to two minutes at a time.
"What Mark told me was shocking," the boys' mother Elizabeth said Monday. "According to Mark, he and Keith were having fun playing Army until Keith captured Mark—which is what usually happens, because Mark is smaller—and put him inside the fort they'd made in the basement. I thought they were playing nicely down there, but there's nothing nice about noogies."
In addition to farting in the fort's entrance and forcing Mark to remain inside, Keith allegedly gave his brother Indian burns, grundies, and a sustained wet willy. Keith also reportedly subjected Mark to Chinese Finger Torture, by restraining him and methodically tapping his forehead until he screamed "uncle." Chinese Finger Torture was specifically outlawed by the Nelson family in December 2003, during talks held at Grandma Keller's house.
"I know boys are going to wrestle," Elizabeth said. "But I told Keith never to do that finger-tapping thing. It drives his brother absolutely crazy."
The upholstered prison, named "Fort Awesome" by Keith and Mark during a moment of unity, was made of cushions taken from the family's old blue couch and reinforced with several blankets and pillows. Although reportedly "grown-up proof," the fortress was slated for destruction even before the abuse charges were raised.
"The fortress was going to have to come down before dinner anyway," Elizabeth said. "But after this, you better believe it was gone. I made Keith march right down there and put everything away."
Although he did not witness the incident, Mark's 8-year-old playmate Jacob Oliveri said he can corroborate Mark's psychological-abuse charges.
"Once, when we were playing in the woods behind my house, Keith said he wanted to show us something," Oliveri said. "After we'd walked like 10 minutes, he told us to cover our eyes and count to 50 before opening them. When we opened our eyes, Keith was gone. We had to find our own way home."
Elizabeth said the stress that Keith has experienced during his first weeks in the sixth grade, and the fact that Mark "can be very bratty," may have contributed to the alleged abuse.
"I'm not going to say that Mark is completely innocent," Elizabeth said. "He sometimes gets a little too big for his britches. But that doesn't mean I'm going to look the other way when Keith forces Mark to smell his socks. Keith is older, and he should know better."
Elizabeth debriefed the boys' father Paul when he arrived home from work. While Paul pledged that the abuses would not go unpunished, he said he was not overly concerned about the charges.
"I had a talk with Keith and told him that he should be setting a better example for his brother," Paul said. "But if you ask me, Liz is overreacting. Boys will be boys. Although things probably did go a little too far, Keith was just playing. That's what big brothers do. And, when Mark reaches the upper grades, he's going to have to take care of himself. He's not going to have his mother to run to every time something happens."
Although Keith's PlayStation privileges have been revoked for a week, some experts say that punishment will only create a more hostile home environment.
"Taking away PlayStation rights may have been a mistake," said Dr. Ted Nealman, a noted child psychologist. "It's only going to create unnecessary resentment against Mark. Additionally, the public nature of the revocation means that every time the neighbors see siblings engaging in innocent tussling, they're going to sound the alarm. That's unfortunate, because, throughout the neighborhood, older brothers tend to do an excellent job of keeping their younger brothers out of trouble."