Family: Wrongfully-held man may die in Mexican jail

Family: Wrongfully-held man may die in Mexican jail »Play Video
Edward Chrisman
ARLINGTON, Wash. -- An alleged misunderstanding with Mexican police is turning into a life-or-death situation for an elderly Western Washington man.

Family members claim 88-year-old Edward Chrisman and his grandson, Gary Chrisman Jr., both of Arlington, Wash., were wrongfully arrested and jailed on a bogus charge by Mexican police who were after a payoff.

The two have been behind bars for three weeks, and family members say Ed's health is deteriorating.

"Crazy, not knowing what's going to happen from the next day to the next," said Tammy Chrisman, a family member.

"It's a roller coaster of emotions. You get your hopes up and they get dashed real quick," said Ed's grandson, Eric Chrisman.

Ed Chrisman is a devoted father and grandfather as well as a World War Two veteran. But right now, he's an inmate in Mexico.

Ed had been spending his winter in Yuma, Ariz., when his grandson invited him along on a trip to get inexpensive dental treatment in Mexico, the family said.

The two were arrested after a woman accused them of asking her daughters to pose nude for photographs.

"It's ridiculous," said Tammy. "It's just, if you were to know Ed, you would know this is something he would not do."

According to a Mexican police news Web site that focuses on crimes in the Mexicali area, police said the men offered young girls 200 pesos to take nude photos.

The site reported that a 47-year-old mother complained to police that the Americans asked her 13-year-old to pose naked. The agents confiscated a camera and took the case to the Public Ministry on charges of child pornography, according to the site.

"There's no way he would be the person they're trying to make him out to be," said Don Chrisman, Ed's son.

The family maintains the men are innocent and that Mexican authorities want to shake them down for cash. They say the pair were arrested after Chrisman Jr. took a photo of two fully clothed young women in a convenience store in Algodones, Mexico, and that Ed wasn't even in the store at the time.

Mexican authorities have released some of the pictures taken by Ed's grandson, and family members said nothing about them appears pornographic or even inappropriate.

Don said his father's deteriorating health is making matters even more serious.

"I believe he could possibly not make it out," he said.

Ed has contracted pneumonia. He can barely walk and his hearing aids have now failed, his family said.

Shannon Perkins, Edward Chrisman's granddaughter, said she and her father have traveled repeatedly from Yuma, Ariz., to Mexicali to try to free the men to no avail.

Sen. Maria Cantwell's office has begun looking into the matter to make sure the men are being treated fairly, and a leading politician in Algodones has also stepped in, hoping to resolve the case.

A Mexican official told the Chrisman family that from what he's seen, he believes the two men are being held illegally. But the case continues to drag on, adding to the family's frustration.

"We're just hoping that maybe this will help," Don said. "We're just seeing what happens from here. It's a waiting game."