A National Park Service employee in southeastern Arizona was beaten unconscious and left for dead Wednesday afternoon before being found by a hiker in a known drug smuggling corridor near the Mexican border.
The 60-year-old female interpretive ranger was found in a park restroom bloodied with a severe head injury in the Chiricahua National Monument area, where she would spend her days giving tours and doing maintenance, Cochise County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas told TheBlaze.
“That whole area is historically known as drug corridor,” Capas said. “But we don’t have any suspects and don’t want to jump to conclusions.”
The woman, whose husband died of natural causes more than a week ago, was flown to a Tucson hospital where she remains in critical but stable condition, the sheriff’s office said.
“You can only imagine what her family is going through,” Capas said. “She is still in critical condition.”
Her government vehicle was also missing from where she had been assaulted.
It was found several hours later after the sheriff’s department traced her missing cell phone, which was left in the vehicle, to the city of Douglas, Ariz. Douglas is approximately 40 miles from where the park worker was assaulted. It borders the Mexican city of Agua Prieta, known to be a human and drug trafficking corridor for Mexico’s powerful Sinoloa drug cartel.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said in a press release that his deputies were working closely with federal and state law enforcement hoping to “ identify the suspect(s) who apparently seriously injured a federal employee.”
Last month TheBlaze visited Dannels in Cochise County, where he challenged the eight senators who drafted the current ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill to come visit his county. In particular, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who Dannels noted had never been to his border community.
Capas said the FBI in Phoenix is also assisting in the investigation and aiding in the collection of evidence found in the park ranger’s government vehicle. She said the evidence will be turned over to the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab for analysis.
No suspects have been identified yet but “we’re hoping to have more to go on with the evidence – it can take some time,” she added.
In 1980 Park Service ranger Paul Fugate disappeared while on foot patrol at the monument. His disappearance has never been solved.
Douglas rancher, Rob Krentz, whose shooting death in 2010 is still unresolved, was the impetus behind the passage of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070.