Officials Identify Bodies of Southland Hikers Missing Since July

hikers missing

Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

A Lakewood man and Westminster woman, both in their 20s, whose bodies were recently discovered, died as a result of a murder-suicide, according to San Bernardino authorities who identified them on Friday.

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S P O N S O R

The Southland couple whose embracing remains were found Sunday, October 15 in Joshua Tree National Park died when Joseph Orbeso, 22, fatally shot Rachel Nguyen, 20, before turning the gun on himself in what appeared to be a desperate final option of the dying couple lost in the wilderness.

A gun registered to Orbeso was also found at the scene.

Orbeso was employed as a security guard at a Long Beach golf course, which may have been why he had the gun, his best friend, 23-year-old Lakewood resident Austin Young, told the OC Register

The pair were last seen July 27 when they left for a hike and were reported missing the next day when they failed to check out of their Airbnb rental.

Cindy Bachman of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department told ABC7 the couple's bodies were found under a tree, possibly in an attempt to shield themselves from the heat.

“They had positioned their clothing to ... cover the lower parts of their body from the sun and the heat,'' Bachman said. “Investigators say it appeared they were rationing food, and they had no water.”

She said there is no evidence of any prior intent by Orbeso to harm Nguyen, and the pair likely found themselves in “dire” circumstances.

“They were lost. They were in a bad area there and their resources were either almost gone or gone. Again, they were in a very desperate situation,” Bachman told Channel 7.

Orbeso’s father, Gilbert, was part of the search team that found the remains.

City News Service contributed to this report.



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