Missing couple in Joshua Tree died in murder-suicide, authorities say – Los Angeles Times
A couple who disappeared in Joshua Tree National Park nearly three months ago died in a murder-suicide, authorities said Friday.
Investigators say Joseph Orbeso, 22, shot and killed his girlfriend, Rachel Nguyen, 20, and then turned the gun on himself, according to a release Friday from the San Bernardino Sheriffâs Department Morongo Basin station.
Investigators recovered a handgun at the scene, San Bernardino sheriffâs spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
Orbeso and Nguyen were reported missing July 28, after a bed-and-breakfast owner in the Morongo Basin told the Sheriffâs Department that they may have gone hiking in the park that morning.
Authorities found their car near a trailhead that day and began searching for the couple, at first pulling in 250 search and rescue members and resources including âaircraft, dog teams, horse teams, and [a] ground team,â who combined spent more than 2,100 hours looking for the couple. In August, they scaled back the search to weekends.
On Sunday, almost three months after the Orange County couple was reported missing, a park ranger found the bodies inside âa steep canyon to the far north of the Maze Loop Trailhead,â according to the sheriffâs statement.
âBased on evidence located at the scene, detectives believe Orbeso shot Nguyen, then shot himself. The investigation into Orbesoâs actions remains under investigation,â the statement said.
The sheriffâs update comes days after Orbesoâs father, Gilbert Orbeso, publicly identified the pair and authorities said they were found in an âembrace.â
âI want Joseph to be remembered as a kind, caring and thoughtful person,â his father told the Southern California News Group in an email. âThe way he was found beside Rachel holding her as they were seeking shade under the brush says everything you need to know about him as a man and as a human being.â
Authorities did not report the gunshot wounds when they announced the coupleâs discovery because the coroner had to confirm the injuries and identify both people, which took time because of the condition of the bodies after months in the desert, Bachman said.
When the two were found, their bodies did appear to be interlocked, she said.
âThe position of their bodies,â she said, âit appeared that they were embracing.â
2:24 p.m. This article was updated with information about family search.
11:50 a.m.: This article was updated with information from sheriffâs spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.
This article was originally published at 11:20 a.m.