Missing Hikers Found Holding Each Other in Joshua Tree Died in Apparent Murder-Suicide

A couple who went missing in Joshua Tree National Park back in July died in a murder-suicide, according to a San Bernardino County Sheriff press release.

Authorities found the bodies of Rachel Nguyen, 20, of Westminster, and Joseph Orbeso, 21, of Lakewood, on Sunday after spending over 2,100 hours searching for them. The couple was found embracing each other inside “a steep canyon to the far north of the Maze Loop Trailhead,” according to the sheriff’s statement. A handgun was also recovered from the site.

“Based on evidence located at the scene, detectives believe Orbeso shot Nguyen, then shot himself. The investigation into Orbeso’s actions remains under investigation,” the statement said.

Orbeso’s actions have left both officials and loved ones confused. “There is nothing left behind to give the investigators or the family any indication of why this happened,” said Cindy Bachman, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman, in a telephone interview with the Daily Breeze on Friday. “There was nothing like a note or a phone call to explain the circumstances that we found. It’s unfortunate because it leaves questions for their family.

“I’m not aware of anyone coming forward to offer information that Rachel was in any danger or that there was anything planned to cause harm to her,” she said.

The bodies of Nguyen and Orbeso were found after they were reported missing on July 28; authorities were first alerted when the couple had failed to check out of an AirBnB apartment. Earlier reports indicated that the couple entered Joshua Tree National Park at around 6:45 a.m. on July 27. Officials found their car at the northwest area of the park at the Maze Loop trail.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by friends to help support their grieving family members at this time.

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