Missing hikers died in ‘murder-suicide pact’

A young couple who went missing in a national park on a hot summer day died in what appeared to be a murder-suicide pact, police say.

The bodies of Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, were found in an embrace last week – two-and-a-half months after they went missing in southern California's Joshua Tree National Park on 28 July.

Both had gunshot wounds – and based on evidence at the scene, detectives believe Mr Orbeso shot Ms Nguyen, then shot himself.

The couple were found under a tree in a remote canyon and had positioned their clothing to protect them from the sun.

It appeared they had been rationing their food and had no water, police said.

Joshua Tree National Park is known for its desert ecosystem and temperatures reach up to 40.5C (105F) in July.

Mr Orbeso and Ms Nguyen were first reported missing after they failed to return to a bed and breakfast they had stayed in.

Image:In July, temperatures in Joshua Tree National Park reach up to 40.5C

The hotel's owner believed they had gone hiking in the national park, which covers more than 1,200 square miles of the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

Later that day, rangers found the couple's unoccupied car near a trailhead.

More than 250 rescue workers, dogs and aircraft were drafted in for a widespread search, while a $10,000 (£7,580) reward was offered for information that would lead to the couple's safe return.

After more than 2,100 hours of searches, the couple's bodies were recovered and airlifted to a coroner's office.

Mr Orbeso's father, Gilbert, was with rescue workers who made the discovery.

He said he felt "a sense of relief", adding: "I believed that I was going to find them.

"I feel like we have closure. We know we found them. That was our main goal, to find them.

"And I'm glad we did that with these great people here with me and the rest of everyone."

In a statement, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said homicide detectives launched an investigation into the deaths "due to the suspicious circumstances and visible injuries".

It added: "Orbeso's actions remain under investigation."


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