Young Couple Desperately Lost and Thirsty in Desert Turns to Suicide

Young Couple Desperately Lost and Thirsty in Desert Turns to Suicide

JOSHUA TREE – Two hikers apparently lost while hiking were located deceased, their death, a result of gunshot wounds to them both.

The young Orange County couple was reported missing on July 28th by a Morongo Basin bed and breakfast owner that told deputies that Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, went hiking in Joshua Tree National Park that morning and did not return when it was time to check out. The couple’s vehicle was located the same day near the trailhead in the park, but the vehicle was unoccupied and the couple was not located. A nine-day search for the couple using the Joshua Tree National Park Service (NPS) search and rescue team. The following day they requested assistance from the Sheriff’s Department. Over 250 Search and Rescue members, including some volunteers were assisted in the search.

Dogs, horses, helicopters and those on foot searched the vast area hoping to find the couple. Over 10 search personnel suffered injuries, and on August 6, 2017, all operations came to a halt based on the risk to personnel and the extremely minimal chances of finding the couple alive. The search continued using smaller teams only on weekends, these teams included members of the Morongo Search and Rescue along with the NPS.

On the afternoon of October 15, 2017, at around 1:50 p.m., Sheriff’s dispatch received a report from a park ranger indicating that two people were found dead inside the park. Sheriff’s officials were flown in to the area, which was not accessible to vehicles. The area was a steep canyon to the far north of the Maze Loop Trailhead. The Specialized Investigation Division- Homicide Detail responded to the location but due to the loss of daylight had to return to recover the bodies the following day.

On October 16, 2017, the bodies were recovered and transported to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Coroner Division. The bodies were positively identified on Wednesday and Thursday and the cause of death was confirmed to be a gunshot wound to each. Detectives believe the Orbeso shot Nguyen and them himself. What led to the shooting remains under investigation since both bodies were located under a tree, positioned with clothing covering their lower extremities in an attempt to protect them from the sun. Sheriff’s officials said that it appears that they had been rationing their food and were completely out of water. The gun located near their bodies was registered to Joseph Orbeso.

A family friend has started a Go Fund Me Account in hopes to collect funds to ease the financial stress associated with the memorial service and burial on the families. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Specialized Investigations Division, Homicide Detail, Detective Scott Stafford or Sergeant Robert Warrick (909) 387-3589.  Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463), or you may leave information on the We-Tip website at

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Image Sources:

  • Orange County Couple: Go Fund Me