Family of Joshua Tree hiker: No grudges against hiking companion accused of being gunman

Posted at 12:45 PM, Oct 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-21 15:56:51-04

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- The family of a young woman who authorities said died in a murder-suicide in Joshua Tree National Park says they hold no grudges against her hiking companion who is believed to be the gunman.

Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, had been missing for nearly three months after going hiking in the sprawling desert park in late July. Their disappearance launched an exhaustive search, but their bodies were not found until Oct. 15.

RELATED: Sheriff's officials: Missing couple in Joshua Tree National Park died in murder-suicide

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said Friday that autopsies found both had gunshot wounds and evidence at the scene led detectives to believe Orbeso shot Nguyen and then himself.

Authorities told the Orange County Register there was evidence the pair was battling the elements. Nguyen's family said investigators believed the two died in a "sympathetic murder-suicide."

"The bodies of [Nguyen] and [Orbeso] were found under a tree. They had positioned their clothing to cover their lower extremities and protect them from the sun. It appears they had been rationing their food and had no water," Sheriff's investigators said in a release.

Orbeso's father told ABC7 Los Angeles earlier he found his son and Nguyen in an embrace following a trail of water bottles, clothing, and food wrappers led them to the bodies.

Officials, however, said Friday, "the investigation into Orbeso’s actions remain under investigation." Investigators have also determined the gun found near the bodies was registered to Orbeso.

Sheriff's officials say anyone who believes they have information regarding the case is encouraged to call Specialized Investigations Division, Homicide Detail, Detective Scott Stafford or Sergeant Robert Warrick 909-387-3589 or the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-782-7463.