Manhunt cancelled: Texas fugitive arrested in Grand Canyon National Park

NPS Investigative Services Branch nets two convictions for identity theft suspects arrested in April

Darrius Johnson Jr. is a suspect in the May shooting of a Terrell, Texas man. (Photo courtesy of Terrell Police Department)

Darrius Johnson Jr. is a suspect in the May shooting of a Terrell, Texas man. (Photo courtesy of Terrell Police Department)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — A nationwide manhunt was cancelled June 11 after a Grand Canyon law enforcement ranger arrested a Texas fugitive in the park.

Darrius Johnson, Jr., 24, of Terrell, Texas, was wanted in the shooting death of 23-year-old Billy Gardner Jr., also of Terrell. Gardner was found suffering from gunshot wounds in his vehicle in the small bedroom community east of Dallas May 28. He later died at the hospital.

In a press release from the Terrell Police Department, authorities said Johnson was arrested after being pulled over by a Grand Canyon ranger for a seatbelt violation. He was then taken into custody by the NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB). The department is working with federal marshals to extradite Johnson back to Kaufman County, Texas.

In April, ISB special agents also netted two convictions after apprehending a couple wanted for identity theft and drug charges in Florida.

Maeve McLaughlin, 32, and Louis Riccardi, 31, were arrested after Grand Canyon National Park rangers conducted a welfare check on a man sleeping in his vehicle. Riccardi appeared to be sleeping in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck in the middle of a parking lot. During the contact, rangers observed drug paraphernalia on the vehicle’s dashboard.

Rangers also contacted McLaughlin, who was traveling with Riccardi, and determined she had an active arrest warrant in Florida for larceny. ISB special agents were requested to the scene to assist with interviews and the investigation.

Court records show that identifying documents belonging to 16 different individuals were discovered during a search of the vehicle, along with marijuana, marijuana paraphernalia and a syringe the subjects reported to be used for heroin injection. Additionally, two stolen bicycles that were in the bed of the pickup truck were returned to their rightful owners.

Riccardi also told rangers that he had hidden a considerable quantity of the drug Oxycontin in his rectum, and that while being detained, he consumed all of it. He was subsequently transported to an area hospital for a possible drug overdose. McLaughlin was reportedly uncooperative with rangers and investigators.

Riccardi and McLaughlin pleaded guilty to violations including identity theft, interfering with agency functions and possession of controlled substances. McLaughlin was sentenced June 8 to three terms of six months imprisonment to run concurrently. Riccardi was sentenced to three terms of three months imprisonment to run consecutively, in addition to time already served. The pair must also pay court fines.

The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, and adjudicated by the US Magistrate for the US District Court of Arizona. Both McLaughlin and Riccardi were remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

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