Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AZMEX I3 29-4-17

AZMEX I3 29 APR 2017

Note: Update

Gaxiola sentenced
Monique Brand Ainslee S. Wittig Sierra Vista Herald and Arizona Range News
Apr 26, 2017 Updated Apr 26, 2017

BISBEE — Mexican native Gil Gaxiola was sentenced to 76 years in Cochise County Superior Court on Monday, April 17.

Gaxiola, now 36, was found guilty by jury on March 16, for severely beating a National Parks Service employee at the Chiricahua National Monument, along with seven other counts of crimes committed in 2013.

Convictions include first-degree attempted murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, theft and kidnapping. One charge of second-degree attempted murder was dismissed by the court, as it is a lesser charge and both cannot be used at for the same crime.

On the evening of Aug. 28, 2013, the victim was found unconscious in a restroom near the Faraway Ranch Trailhead, suffering from head trauma.

According to reports, in the aftermath of the attack, the victim's work vehicle was stolen from the area.

The day after attack, Gaxiola was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Douglas, three blocks from where the vehicle was found. He was not charged with the assault at Chiricahua National Monument until January of 2014, after DNA evidence from a McDonald's meal found in the stolen vehicle linked him to the crime.

A plea deal — which would have him sentenced to 28 years in prison — had been on the table as early as August 2014. After the Aug. 19, 2016 hearing, Gaxiola was given 30 days to accept the deal. It was rejected.

Gaxiola also completed a restoration to competency program after receiving conflicting diagnoses from both the state and defense's independent psychological evaluations.

During the three-week trial, numerous witnesses took the stand including members of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.

The victim, Karen Gonzales, of Willcox, was in attendance for most of the trial alongside family members.

During Monday's sentencing hearing, Gonzales turned to Gaxiola and said she had forgiven him, but "how you deal with that with God is up to you."
"If you would've asked for the keys to the car, I would've just given them to you," she said.

Reports of Gaxiola's previous felony convictions out of Idaho — in Cassia and Minidoka counties — along with felony convictions with the U.S. District Court and Maricopa County, were placed into evidence as "aggravating factors" to be considered into his sentence.

With that, Gaxiola was classified as a category 3 offender; those convicted of a felony with two or more prior felonies in their criminal history.

Each count varied in different sentences from 28 to 12 years, to be served consecutively with credit of 1,145 days he has served — except on one count relating to the theft of the National Parks Service vehicle.

His sentence began on Monday after the sentencing.

According to Judge Wallace Hoggatt, he will be housed at the Cochise County Jail until the matter of restitution is solved.

When asked to speak, Gaxiola said he's glad the victim has forgiven him.
"I thank the court for giving me the opportunity to tell my story," he said. "That day was the worst day of my life. I wish I should've done something to make this turn out a different way."

Gaxiola has 20 days to appeal.

Gonzales told the Range News Tuesday, "I am so glad it is over and I can move on. I wanted to tell him (Gaxiola) that I was old enough to be his mom. But I did tell him that he is a dangerous man. If he left me for dead, did he leave anyone else for dead? I told him that I don't hate him. I don't even know him. And then I told him, 'Vaya con Dios' (Go with God). I know he will understand that."

The National Park Service responded to the sentencing Tuesday, April 18, as well.

"The National Park Service extends sincere thanks to all who worked tirelessly to ensure justice for the victim and her family.Special agentsof the NPS Investigative Services Branchcollaborated with detectives of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office on the case, which was prosecuted by the Cochise County Attorney's Office. Other agencies that significantly contributed to the detection, apprehension, and successful prosecution of Gaxiola include the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Laboratory," said a press release by NPS Investigative Services Branch.

"We are hopeful that the conclusion of this trial helps Karen Gonzales and her family find some closure with this tragic incident," Superintendent Allen Etheridge of Chiricahua National Monument said, "and we remain supportive of Karen as she continues to recover from her injuries."

Gonzales thanked all those who helped her through this process, especially, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Sgt. Tal Parker, FBI Victim Specialist Colleen Hansen, Attorney Doyle Johnstun and everyone at the National Park Service.


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