California hikers found dead, locked in embrace

Peter Castro
October 23, 2017

"These two were found in a desperate situation", said Cindy Bachman, Public Information Officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Detectives said that Joseph Orbeso, 22, fatally shot his girlfriend Rachel Nguyen and then turned the gun on himself in July at the California park, news station KTLA reported.

A gun found near the bodies was registered to Orbeso, officials said.

On Sunday, nearly three months after they were reported missing, a park ranger found their bodies inside "a steep canyon to the far north of the Maze Loop Trailhead", according to the sheriff's statement.

Nguyen and Orbeso, from Orange County, had been reported missing July 28 after the owner of the Airbnb where the couple was staying noticed they had not checked out. "The investigation into Orbeso's actions remain under investigation", sheriff's officials said in a press release.

"During autopsy, injuries consistent with a gunshot wound were located on both Nguyen and Orbeso", said the release.

He told deputies that his guests possibly went hiking at Joshua Tree National Park.

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"They had a choice of a slow and painful death or a quick death", Young continued.

A motive for the apparent murder-suicide is not yet clear. Their vehicle was discovered later that day near the Maze Loop, by the park's west entrance, reports KTLA.

The bodies of Nguyen and Orbeso were found in a remote area of the park at 11:30 a.m. October 15, according to a National Park Service press release.

Volunteers donated more than 2,100 hours in the search efforts, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said. Crews spent more than 2,100 hours scouring the rugged terrain before finding their bodies in a steep canyon on October 15. "The 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". Search and rescue members, aircraft teams and canine units helped look for the pair, but the search was unsuccessful.

According to ABC, the search team that found the bodies on Sunday included Orbeso's father, Gilbert Orbeso.

More than 10 of of the search personnel trying to find them suffered injuries during the search for the hikers.

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