Missing couple found in Joshua Tree died in murder-suicide, investigators say

SAN DIEGO -- An Orange County man whose body was found alongside his girlfriend's nearly three-months after they disappeared appears to have killed her and then himself in Joshua Tree National Park, authorities said Friday.

Joseph Orbeso fatally shot 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen, then shot himself during a hike in the national park in July, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department detectives.

Orbeso and Nguyen were reported missing on July 28 when they did not check out of their Airbnb as scheduled, KTLA reported. Their vehicle, a burgundy Lexus, was found later that day in the vicinity of the Maze Loop, a popular trail, near the park’s west entrance, officials said.

The Orange County couple planned a trip to the park to celebrate Nguyen's birthday, according to Nguyen's uncle.

More than 250 people took part in a large-scale, nine-day search for the couple. Search and rescue members, aircraft teams and canine units helped look for the pair, but the search was unsuccessful. A spokesman for the park told KTLA at the time of the incident that there was no reason to suspect foul play and officials believed the couple had gotten lost in the park.

About 2½ months later, on the morning of Oct. 15, hikers found the bodies in a remote area of the park.