Search for missing young hikers at Joshua Tree National Park ends in tragic murder-suicide

A shocking twist to what was supposed to be the end of a search for two missing hikers.

22-year-old Fil-Am Joseph Orbeso and 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen, both from Orange County, were last seen on July 27th, set to go on a hike at Joshua Tree National Park.

After a three-month search, Orbeso’s father Gilbert, along with a search and rescue team, found the pair’s remains on October 15th.

But after an autopsy by the San Bernardino County coroner’s office formally identified the bodies, detectives now believe that Orbeso shot Nguyen, and then shot himself.

According to a family member, Rachel may have been in distress, as investigators say a t-shirt had been wrapped around her like a bandage.

“These two were found in a desperate situation… there is nothing to indicate as far as evidence found, like a note. They have nothing to suggest that Joseph had any plan to harm Rachel,” said Cindy Bachman, public information officer, of the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department. “They had positioned their clothing to cover their lower parts of their body from the sun and the heat. The investigators say that they appeared to have been rationing food, and they had no water.”

Reports say due to the circumstances and positioning of the bodies, investigators believe it was a sympathetic murder-suicide, and that they have no evidence to suggest that Joseph had any plan to harm Rachel.

“Those trails, the washes kind of look like a trail. If you cross a trail or a wash, it may go in a different direction, especially if it’s not well-marked and especially maybe if you’re disoriented,” said Joseph’s father Gilbert.

Rachel’s family says they hold no grudges against Joseph or the Orbeso family, and are thankful they can give Rachel a proper burial.

“We hold no grudges against Joseph or the Orbeso family. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Orbeso family, and that they will remain in our prayers. We thank God that we’ll be able to give Rachel a proper burial and lay her to rest”.

As investigations continue, Gilbert Orbeso has told the media that the way his son was found beside Rachel, holding her under the shade is telling of his character.

“Joseph is a protector, as well as a kind and caring person,” he said. “We can’t be judgmental right away until you get more facts.”


Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to call authorities at the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department specialized investigations division, at 909-387-3589.


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