Two Joshua Tree hikers found dead with their arms around each other both died of gunshot wounds, CNN reports.
Though initial reports were interpreted to suggest that the couple died accidentally, authorities now believe the man killed the woman and himself in a murder-suicide.
Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbes0, 22, of Orange County, California, were found last week after going missing in late July. The Los Angeles Times reports that the owner of a bed and breakfast in Morongo Basin called to report the couple missing when they failed to return to their room on July 28 after presumably going on a hike.
After a massive search yielded few clues beyond the couple’s car at the bottom of the trailhead, the active search was scaled back to weekends. Last week, a park ranger found their bodies in an embrace at the bottom of a canyon.
The first reports that their bodies had been found did not reveal the presence of gunshot wounds, pending a medical examination. Before authorities revealed the additional information, Orbeso’s father Gilbert Orbesa gave the following statement to the Southern California News Group.
“I want Joseph to be remembered as a kind, caring and thoughtful person. The way he was found beside Rachel holding her as they were seeking shade under the brush says everything you need to know about him as a man and as a human being.”
The San Bernadino Sheriff’s office explained their determination in a statement.
“Based on evidence located at the scene, detectives believe Orbeso shot Nguyen, then shot himself. The investigation into Orbeso’s actions remains under investigation.”
A motive for the apparent murder-suicide is not yet clear.
[Feature photo: Handout]