Texas man found dead in Oasis State Park
Last updated 7/9/2022 at 11:21am
Doug Eaton loved mountain climbing. That’s where he’d been the past three weeks, hiking up 23 different peaks, each at least 14,000 feet high.
The dream vacation was ending last week. He contacted his mother late Wednesday afternoon and told her he would reach her home near Abilene in a few hours. But first he was planning to take a short nap at Oasis State Park near Portales.
Family members never heard from Eaton again. His body and his pickup truck were found late Thursday night at the park, said his longtime friend Douglas Branch.
New Mexico State Police late Friday afternoon issued a news release that stated Eaton was found deceased from an apparent gunshot wound to his head inside a parked vehicle. “At this time it appears the gunshot was self-inflicted and there was no foul play involved,” the release stated. “The investigation remains ongoing. ... Mr. Eaton’s body was transported ... for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death. “
Branch said he does not believe Eaton would have killed himself. “There’s no way it was suicide,” Branch said. “I hope (investigators) do their due diligence.”
Branch said he’s known Eaton, 36, since they were childhood friends in McKinney, Texas. Eaton had moved to Sherman, Texas, and Branch to Galveston, Texas, but they still kept in touch regularly. They’d texted just a few days ago.
“I have a group message with him and another best friend,” Branch said. “He was in Colorado (where a sister lives) and he’d just finished his last mountain. He was spending the day there and then headed back home.
“I just know he was doing what he called 14ers. He’s a rock-climbing enthusiast and he would go to all these different peaks. He hadn’t been able to do it for a long time because he has two small kids, 7 and 5. So this was a (special) vacation for him.”
Branch said Eaton’s girlfriend “made him keep an active tracker on him” in case he got hurt on a mountain.
“We all understood this is what he liked doing, but we know it’s a dangerous hobby,” Branch said. “He promised it was safe.”
Eaton’s body was located using a tracking device attached to his black Chevy truck, Branch said