Hiking couple discovered 'locked in final embrace' died in a 'sympathetic murder-suicide' pact
The couple that went missing a few months ago were discovered last week, but now we know the final cause of their death. Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 21, were hiking at Joshua Tree National Park in California when they disappeared.
Tragically, the couple were out celebrating Rachel's birthday that week when they were reported as missing. On July 28th, the report was made, after they failed to check out of the Airbnb in which they were staying. They rented the accommodation as it was close to the national park, so they could hike around the area.
With the help of rescue crews, and backed by a fundraising page started by their families, the search first turned up their car, which was first found by police near a popular hiking trail called the Maze Loop shortly afterwards. Joseph's father, Gilbert Orbeso, feared that they had not survived, but still sought out closure for the ordeal.
George Land, a spokesman for Joshua Tree National Park, said that the tracks found indicated they were lost. "The way the tracks were picked up indicate these people could be walking in circles," he stated, "which is not uncommon when people are lost".
Eventually the bodies were recovered, found locked in a final embrace. Many assumed that they had died due the rapidly rising temperatures in the area, and while that is true, it has been revealed that they chose to end things quickly rather than succumb to this prolonged fate. According to the Associated Press, they died in a "sympathetic murder-suicide", after autopsies carried out on them revealed they both had fatal gunshot wounds.
Evidence found at the scene lead authorities to believe Joseph shot Rachel before turning the gun on himself. The working theory is that they made the pact to end their lives after struggling to survive for several days in exceedingly high temperatures with little food and water.
The scene around them showed that they had been rationing food, and had no water left. The Orange County Register reports that the autopsies indicated the pair had battled the elements prior to their deaths. The bodies were found under a tree with their legs covered by their arranged clothing, protecting them from the harsh heat of the sun.
The gun found at the scene was registered to Joseph, who worked as a security guard. It is assumed that he brought the gun on the trip to protect Rachel and himself. Austin Young, a close friend of Joseph's told the Orange County Register:
"They had a choice of a slow and painful death or a quick death. And they made the choice of a quick death"
Joseph's father, Gilbert, said "I hope that they can rest in peace now". This is no doubt a heartbreaking way to go, and something the families are still reeling from. Our thoughts are with the loved ones affected by this tragedy.