A man suspected of beating a parks worker nearly to death before stealing her truck last summer is in custody, officials said.

Gil Gaxiola, 33, was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Douglas and placed in federal custody the day after the Aug. 29 attack on Karen Gonzales, an employee at the Chiricahua National Monument, Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, said in a news release.

However, sheriff’s investigators did not know Gaxiola was a suspect in the case until they received a report Dec. 30 from the Arizona Department of Public Safety laboratory that showed DNA matching Gaxiola’s was found in the stolen truck. The match turned up when DNA samples were run through a national database, Capas said.

On Thursday, a Cochise County Superior Court grand jury indicted Gaxiola on one count each of attempted first-degree murder; attempted second-degree murder; armed robbery; kidnapping and auto theft; and three counts of aggravated assault.

Gonzales, who is in her 60s, was a uniformed maintenance worker with the National Park Service and a longtime seasonal employee. She was found unconscious at a picnic-area restroom in the Chiricahua National Monument. Gonzales suffered head trauma and was flown to a Tucson hospital in critical condition.

Her government vehicle was found several hours later about 40 miles away in Douglas by tracking her cellphone, which was still inside.

Gonzales was beaten in the head with a large rock, Capas said Friday.

Gaxiola “coldly and callously beat a federal employee almost to death before blatantly using her vehicle to go to a fast-food drive-thru,” Sheriff Mark Dannels said in the news release.

It may be several weeks before Gaxiola is turned over to the custody of the Sheriff’s Office, Capas said.

Kimberly Matas

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