Couple Missing in Joshua Tree Died in Murder-Suicide

"During autopsy, injuries consistent with a gunshot wound were located on both Nguyen and Orbeso,'' according to sheriff's officials.

In a tragic ending to a nearly three-month mystery, sheriff's officials said Friday a Southland couple whose embracing remains were found in Joshua Tree National Park died as the result of a murder-suicide.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department officially identified the remains that were found Sunday as Joseph Orbeso, 22, of Lakewood, and Rachel Nguyen, 20, of Westminster. Orbeso's father, Gilbert, was part of the search team that found the remains. Authorities had earlier said both Orbeso and Nguyen were 21.

"During autopsy, injuries consistent with a gunshot wound were located on both Nguyen and Orbeso," according to sheriff's officials. "Based on evidence located at the scene, detectives believe Orbeso shot Nguyen, then shot himself. The investigation into Orbeso's actions remain under investigation."

Sheriff's officials said a gun was found at the scene. Coachella Valley television station KESQ reported that the gun was registered to Joseph Orbeso.

The couple's remains were found in an embrace in a remote part of the park near Maze Loop. The bodies were recovered Monday morning.

The pair had last been seen July 27 when they left for a hike. They were reported missing the next day when they failed to check out of their Airbnb rental. National Park Service rangers found their vehicle near a trail head, prompting a large-scale search that failed to turn up the couple.

The search was eventually scaled back, with teams continuing to scour the park on weekends, with Orbeso's father, Gilbert, regularly joining the search effort.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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