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Missing hikers found dead of gunshot wounds may have died in ‘sympathetic’ murder suicide

“They had a choice of a slow and painful death or a quick death.”

Two missing hikers found dead of a murder-suicide may have chosen to take their own lives after struggling to survive in brutal conditions, those who know them say.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, were found dead and appearing to be in an embrace last week in a canyon in Joshua Tree after going missing in late July. Authorities revealed later in the week that the couple appeared to have died of a murder-suicide, with Orbeso killing Nguyen before taking his own life.

Relatives say they believe the couple died as a result of a “sympathetic murder suicide” as their suffering grew. According to the Orange County Register, the bodies were under a tree and the couple had no water. They appeared to be rationing food.

In a statement, Nguyen’s family said they believe their daughter was a victim of desperation, not violence.

“We hold no grudges against Joseph or the Orbeso family,” the family said.

Orbeso and Nyugen were once a couple, a friend told the newspaper, though it’s not clear what their relationship status was at the time of the hiking trip. Orbeso is believed to have taken Rachel there to celebrate her birthday.

A sheriff’s spokesperson said that investigators cannot be certain of the motive, but that the evidence does suggest a compassionate reason for the deaths.

“Since we don’t have any evidence (note, message) to tell us why the shooting occurred, we are left to speculate,”spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the Orange County Register.

“Knowing that they rationed food, had no water and were seeking shade certainly sheds a different light on the apparent dire circumstances.”

The gun found at the scene was registered to Orbeso, and his friend told the newspaper that he likely brought it on the hike for protection.

“They had a choice of a slow and painful death or a quick death,” Austin Young told the newspaper.

“And they made the choice of a quick death. Joseph wouldn’t do it (the shooting) unless Rachel said she couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t want Joseph to go down as a murderer.”

 

[Feature image: Handout]