PINELLAS PARK — Nearly seven months after a maintenance worker was brutally beaten at an apartment complex, detectives have arrested the man they say is responsible.
Eliezer Garcia, 24, faces robbery and burglary charges in the April attack that left 63-year-old Donald McPherson near death.
McPherson, a retired dairy broker who helps his son with a property management business, was doing handy work about 11:30 a.m. April 15 when someone attacked him outside an empty unit at the Lauren Manor Apartments, 7450 35th St. N.
Police say Garcia was stealing copper pipe from closets in building 800, just south of the apartment where he lived. When McPherson approached him outside, police said, Garcia bludgeoned him with a claw hammer until he stopped moving. He then stole $9 from his wallet, police said.
McPherson's brother, who happened to come by the complex shortly after the attack, found McPherson stumbling around and bleeding from the back of his head.
As paramedics worked to stabilize him, McPherson said he thought he knew who hit him. But then he lost consciousness.
He suffered permanent brain injury that has made speech difficult and left him unable to read.
Pinellas Park police had little to go on until last week, when a drug investigation at Lauren Manor turned up a tip that led them to Garcia.
When investigators first questioned him in his apartment Tuesday, he denied involvement. But when they returned later, Garcia seemed to want to get something off his chest and admitted to the attack, police said.
Garcia told police he saw fliers the department distributed during the summer when they were looking for leads. He even wrote an apology note to McPherson, which detectives delivered and read.
Garcia was booked Tuesday night in the Pinellas County Jail and was being held without bail Wednesday.
His jail record indicates he is wanted on a probation violation charge from a burglary conviction in New Jersey.
Times Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Claire Wiseman can be reached at email@example.com.