TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Joe Gonzales has been by his mother's side since tragedy struck their family last week.
Last Wednesday, a Chiricahua park researcher found his mother, 61-year-old Karen Gonzales, unconscious in a picnic area restroom, with serious head injuries. Cochise County Sheriff's deputies say someone attacked the longtime National Park employee and then took off in her government truck.
Days later, Joe says, his mother is awake and responsive.
"It's amazing,"Joe told 9OYS in an exclusive interview. "It's the first little bit of joy I've had in a good while."
Karen's family says at first she only said, "yes" and "no," or would stick to a simple shake of the head.
"Today, some of the things she's saying, 'it's horrible, it's horrible,'" said Joe. "She came up with the word yesterday, 'perpetrator', [and] she came up with the 'out of control, out of control' -- something that I think she's remembering her last moment of a struggle to fight."
Early Sunday morning at Saguaro National Park, Labor Day marathon runners honored Karen with a moment of silence.
Meantime, deputies are still searching for Karen's attacker. A surveillance image gives some insight.
"What does it mean to your and your family that this person is caught," Nine On Your Side's Cory Marshall asked.
"Everything, absolutely everything," Joe replied.
"This guy has to be caught. He can't get away with this," he continued.