It was recently reported that the bodies of 22-year-old Joseph Orbeso and 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen had been discovered in a remote area of Joshua Tree National Park. They had been missing for three months. At the time of the discovery of the missing hikers, the cause of death was not given by authorities, due to the condition of the bodies and the need for an autopsy. The cause of death has now been released by authorities on Friday, who say they died in a murder-suicide.

Man and girlfriend die in murder-suicide

A news release from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department on Friday states that Orbeso had shot and killed Nguyen, before turning the gun on himself.

The department’s spokeswoman, Cindy Bachman, said a handgun had been recovered at the scene by authorities.

The couple was reported missing on July 28 after failing to check out of a bed and breakfast in the Morongo Basin. Their luggage was still in their room. The owner told officials that the couple may have gone hiking in the park on that morning. Their car was discovered that day by authorities, close to a trailhead. Police launched a search and rescue mission to find Orbeso and Nguyen, involving 250 officers, plus dog and horse teams and aircraft. They searched for over 2,100 hours without success, leading to the search being scaled back in August to weekends.

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Couple discovered in Joshua Tree National Park

It was on Sunday, three months after they were last seen, that a park ranger discovered the missing hikers' bodies in a canyon, north of Maze Loop Trailhead. At the time the couple was found, they were seen to be lying in an embrace. Gilbert Orbeso, Joseph’s father, identified the couple.

The police statement said that based on evidence they found at the scene, Orbeso had shot his girlfriend, then killed himself. Officials are still investigating Orbeso’s actions in the murder-suicide.

According to authorities, while they knew about the gunshot wounds on finding the couple, they didn’t make this information public as they still had to confirm the identity of the couple and the nature of their injuries. Bachman said this took some time, due to the bodies’ condition following months out in the desert.

She did say the bodies appeared to be embracing when they were found.

As reported by The San Bernardino Sun, Bachman continued by saying there was nothing left at the scene to give an indication of why Orbeso killed Nguyen and then committed suicide. There was no phone call or note to explain what happened, which she said was unfortunate, as it leaves behind questions for their families.

The Mercury News quotes Orbeso as saying he wanted his son to be remembered as being a kind, thoughtful and caring person. He went on to describe the way his son was found, holding Nguyen as if seeking shade in the heat, says everything people need to know about his son as a human being and a man.