JOSHUA TREE, Calif. - Tom Koch drives nearly two dozen miles from his home in Twentynine Palms to the Dale Group Mining District near Joshua Tree to look for gold.
He took us along for the nearly two-hour, slow, bumpy and often dangerous ride through the Mojave Desert to the Rose of Peru mine Thursday. It's a mine that's southeast of Twentynine Palms, one Koch hadn't visited in almost seven years.
"This last mile is really nasty," said Koch. "It's out here in the middle of nowhere. We're in no man's land."
About 140 feet down the old, dark mine shaft is where the search for Erin Corwin, 19, ended. There were fresh scuff marks from equipment and tools used by rescue crews when they recovered her body Sunday night.
The Rose of Peru mine is one of more than 100 mine shafts investigators searched to find the pregnant wife of a Marine.
Police believe Christopher Brandon Lee, the man they say Corwin had an affair with, murdered her and left her body there. A crime report said Lee also left behind tire marks and bullet casings, which led investigators to him.
"I'm surprised they found her. I really am," said Koch.
The gold mine operated from 1939 to 1941. There are thousands of abandoned ones like it throughout the desert. It's about 20 miles from the Cottonwood south entrance and Oasis entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park.
"I think he did his homework. How do you find a place like this in the middle of nowhere? I think he checked it really good before he decided on this one," said Koch.
Looking down the mine, Koch said it's eerie and a shame.
"It's really sad her life ended this way. Our kids aren't supposed to predecease us," said Koch.