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

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Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-20 15:50:41-04

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KGTV) - Investigators confirmed Friday two bodies found in Joshua Tree National Park were indeed a pair of hikers who went missing in July.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department's investigators said the bodies were identified as Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, this week. Officials said during the autopsies, injuries "consistent with a gunshot wound" were found on both Nguyen and Orbeso.

Investigators said they currently believe Orbeso shot Nguyen before shooting himself, based on evidence found at the scene.

RELATED: Bodies found in Joshua Tree National Park may be missing Orange County couple

"The investigation into Orbeso’s actions remain under investigation," sheriff's investigators said in a release.

The couple was reported missing on July 28 after the owner of an AirBnb they were staying at contacted Morongo Basin Sheriff’s deputies. Search and rescue team members and volunteers searched for the pair of hikers for more than 2,100 hours.

"This began a large-scale search for the couple where over 250 Search and Rescue members comprised of both full time and Volunteers were used over the course of nine days to search for the couple. All assets including aircraft, dog teams, horse teams, and ground teams were utilized," Sheriff's officials said in the release.

Search efforts were scaled back on Aug. 6 but continued on weekends in smaller groups.

The couple's bodies were discovered Sunday in a remote part of the park near Maze Loop, but due to loss of daylight investigation and recovery of the bodies was postponed until Monday.

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.