Missing Joshua Tree Hikers Died In Murder-Suicide, Autopsy Finds

JOSHUA TREE (CBSLA) – A young Orange County couple whose bodies were found earlier this week — after disappearing while hiking in Joshua Tree National Park back in July — died in a murder-suicide, authorities announced Friday.

On Oct. 15, the remains of 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen of Westminster and her boyfriend, 22-year-old Joseph Orbeso of Lakewood, were discovered in a steep canyon north of the Maze Loop Trailhead, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department reports.

The bodies were recovered on Oct. 16 and positively identified by the San Bernardino County coroner on Thursday. The autopsy, coupled with evidence at the scene, determined that Orbeso shot Nguyen with a gun and then himself, SBSD said.

The two had last been seen on July 27. They were reported missing on July 28 when they did not check out of their Airbnb accommodations in the Morongo Basin area.

The car they were driving was then found by National Park Service rangers near a trailhead on the west side of the park.

A large-scale air and ground search for the couple was conducted over several days involving about 250 law enforcement and volunteers. The search was scaled back on Aug. 6 with no sign of the couple.

The motive for the shooting remains unknown.

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