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Deaths Of Young Couple At Joshua Tree National Park Might Be Murder-Suicide


A young couple whose bodies were discovered last Sunday in a remote area of Joshua Tree National Park in California might have died as a result of a murder-suicide, according to the coroner who identified the bodies.

Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, entered Joshua Tree during the morning of July 27, and had not been seen or heard from since. In late August the couple's families offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to their safe return.

Search-and-rescue teams discovered their bodies shortly before noon on October 15, and transferred them to the San Bernardino County Coroner.

According to a park release on Friday, "the coroner identified injuries consistent with a gunshot wound on both Nguyen and Orbeso. Evidence suggests that Orbeso shot Nguyen and then shot himself. An investigation into these actions is ongoing."

At the height of the search for the two in August more than 250 searchers were involved, including ground teams, dog teams, and aircraft.


The latest update has the theory that they were lost and dehydrated & failing, and then ended their suffering with a "sympathetic murder-suicide", not that either or both of them set off intending on murder/suicide.  I don't know anything one way or another, but wanted to post this slight update before anyone makes other assumptions or interpretations about what happened.

I don`t know anything about a Nation Park,  But I do know there should be some boundries so a person could find their way out.I know it is a huge area, is about all I know.  Mark what could be used for water. If there are cactus in it .  Food or eatable plants to survive on.   You hear of so many people getting lost  or dieing in  National Parks.. They should be shut down  all but a small area.. That way  maybe they can find their way out.  There is no telling how many days they done with out food and water before the  decision was made to do such a thing.   There must be markers and boundries set to keep this from happening again.  Two innocent lives gone for no reason.  All their mistake was going into the park.. I think something should be done about  e National Parks.. If nothing else keep people out..  Better to be safe than sorry.



Linda - not everything comes with training wheels. I could echo your comments about the freeway system, or about walking urban sidewalks, or going to university, but I'm not that naive.


As for getting back to the trailhead safely, that is what trails and trail signs are for.  You don't need a hip chain and thread to find your way back; at most you need to stop & look backward at each trail intersection (or use your phone to take a pic of which way you came from).  Almost everyone who gets lost in National Parks in the lower 48 states gets lost by going off trail, or on closed or abandoned trails.  It really is that simple, even in Joshua Tree.

My understanding is that NPS can't actually prohibit people from hiking in most areas unless they can document damage to the resources.  So it is relatively easy to justify closing areas sensitive to trampling, especially those that would receive high visitation.  Those "stay on the trail" or "stay on the boardwalk" signs are legit, but are much less frequent the further into the backcountry you go!  It is harder to close established trails except for specific seasonal wildlife impacts.  Further, Secretary Zinke's strategic plan that is supposed to be released soon is supposed to direct NPS and all DOI bureaus to change any policies that restirct public use of federal lands, primarily opening them for fishing & hunting.  Given that both of those activities generally happen off-trail, the details of the policy will matter.

As an extreme example about the inability to close trails, during heat waves at Grand Canyon, the park still can't prohibit folks from hiking the trails down from the rim.  All they can do (and often do) is station rangers at the top of every trail to talk with every hiker, atttempting to convince them not to go further, and making sure that they at least have enough water.

In summary: Stay on the trails.  Bring enough water so that you have half a gallon or more left when you get back to your vehicle.  On out & back hikes (and even on the outward leg of loop hikes), look backward regularly.

You should have stopped after the first sentence-- it's the only one that makes sense.

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