A third man has been arrested in connection with a suspected ambush near the Animas River Trail that almost turned deadly.
Around 6 p.m. Nov. 24, police were alerted of a fight behind the Speedway gas station at 901 Camino del Rio, with initial reports indicating a man was hit with a rock and dragged underneath the Ninth Street Bridge.
Durango police arrested Vernon Begay, 30, after officers spotted Begay on top of a woman, punching her, according to an arrest affidavit. The woman’s boyfriend, identified as Orel Nathaniel, 30, was found unconscious nearby, and Begay was charged with attempted murder.
Investigators determined two other men participated in the beating of Nathaniel and fled the scene.
Kevin Bitsilly, 32, was found by police and arrested for attempted murder. Police last week declined to identify the third suspect, but according to court records, the man was arrested Wednesday.
Officers found Nathan Woody, 30, around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Schneider Park, a short distance north of the scene of the ambush, also on the Animas River Trail. He was placed under arrest and taken to the Durango police station, court records show.
Woody first told authorities “he didn’t see, hear or know anything about a fight,” the investigating officer wrote.
After further questioning, Woody admitted to knowing about the fight, telling investigators he had been drinking with everyone involved before the incident. Woody then told conflicting information to police about where he was during the incident.
Ultimately, police determined he was at the scene of the fight, and, based on witness testimony, attacked Nathaniel.
The female victim, identified as Paulina Ketchum, 36, had told authorities she and Nathaniel had been sleeping under the bridge when Begay, Bitsilly and Woody attacked her boyfriend. She identified Begay as the main aggressor.
“Ketchum said the reason the men attacked her and Nathaniel was because they were jealous the two were a couple and had plans to get housing together,” the investigating officer wrote.
Police said everyone involved in the incident live homeless in Durango. Ketchum told authorities she had previous relations with Bitsilly and Woody. It appears Begay is her nephew.
Calls to Cmdr. Ray Shupe were not immediately returned Monday.
Woody was charged with second-degree assault, a Class 4 felony. He told authorities he did not attack Nathaniel, claiming the two were friends and that he “wouldn’t kick anybody when they were down.”
Durango police said Nathaniel was unconscious while the group of men continued to beat him. Nathaniel suffered multiple fractures to the face and had some of his teeth knocked out, among other injuries. He was eventually flown to a hospital in Denver.