An attorney representing Stephen Cartisano said a plea bargain is in the works on negligent-homicide charges facing the former director of the controversial Challenger wilderness treatment program.

Cartisano's co-counsel, Elizabeth Joseph, said Thursday that she has been trading offers with Kane County Attorney Jim Scarth in the case against her client.Cartisano is charged with the misdemeanor homicide charges and child abuse counts stemming from the death in June 1990 of a 16-year-old Challenger enrollee and incidents involving other young participants.

Joseph made the statements in a case status hearing before 6th Circuit Judge David Mower. Scarth was present in the courtroom and Joseph participated by telephone.

Mower did not rule on any of several motions pending in the case and set a further hearing for April 25. A trial date in May was vacated in February. A new trial date is expected to be set in April.

Cartisano is charged in the June 1990 death of Kristen Chase of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who died while hiking atop the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau. An autopsy showed the girl, who had been in the program for three days, died of exertional heat stroke.

Eight other misdemeanor child abuse charges allege physical abuse against other Challenger participants.

Similar charges filed against Cartisano's former field director, Lance "Horsehair" Jagger, are being held in abeyance pending his fulfillment of an agreement to testify against his former boss.