Missing San Diego attorney found in Joshua Tree after suffering 20 ft. fall

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JOSHUA TREE, Calif. -- A 54-year-old attorney from Santee who was missing for four days in Joshua Tree National Park was found alive on Thursday, a Public Information Officer with the National Park Service confirmed.

San Diegan Paul Hanks had apparently fallen from about 20 feet and suffered injuries while hiking alone, but was conscious and alert, officials said. He was transported to a hospital by helicopter.

Hanks had gone missing at the same trail where an Orange County couple got lost and eventually died in a murder-suicide last year.

Park spokesperson George Land confirmed that Hanks, an attorney and real estate broker, left San Diego on Sunday, his 54th birthday, to go hiking in Joshua Tree.

But he never checked into the hotel room he had reserved for the evening.

Hanks is a frequent Joshua Tree visitor, Land said, and a minimalist who was hiking alone and may not have brought excess gear. It is rainy and cool there, so rescuers were also worried about hypothermia, said Land.

Hanks was described as being in good physical condition. He is 5 feet, 9 inches tall with dark hair.

Search teams were deployed in the area and Joshua Tree National Park Search and Rescue volunteers had an incident command center at the trailhead. Hanks' family was also at the park, Land confirmed.

Hanks' white pickup truck was found at the Maze Loop parking lot, the same trail where Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen’s car was discovered before the OC couple's bodies were found in the park with fatal gunshot wounds.

Authorities and family members suspected the murder-suicide had been a "sympathetic" killing after Nguyen suffered an injury and the couple became stranded in the park.

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