Investigative

Joshua Tree hiker's father says shootings due to "desperate situation"

Hikers' bodies found with gunshot wounds

Missing hiker's father comments new deve

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - "These two were found in a desperate situation," said Cindy Bachman, Public Information Officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department is looking for answers on new developments regarding two missing Joshua Tree hikers, Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen. The pair's remains were found last Sunday in a remote area of Joshua Tree National Park.

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Deputies confirmed Friday that they also found a gun near their bodies, registered in Joseph Orbeso's name.

Read: Joshua Tree hikers died in murder-suicide, officials say

"There is nothing to indicate, as far as evidence found, like a note, they have nothing to suggest that Joseph had any plan to harm Rachel," Bachman said.

Originally reported as a murder-suicide investigation, deputies now say details show it could've been a move without malice.

"They had positioned their clothing to cover their lower parts of their body from the sun and the heat," Bachman said. "The investigators say that they appeared to have been rationing food, and they had no water."

Joseph's father, Gilbert, said he agrees it must have been desperation, citing his first-hand experience of the terrain of the park while looking for his son. 

"Those trails, the washes kind of look like a trail. If you cross a trail or a wash, it may go in a different direction, especially if it's not well-marked and especially maybe if you're disoriented," Gilbert said.

Gilbert Orbeso drove to Joshua Tree from the Los Angeles area to join in a weekly search for his son with Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Volunteers. I-Team investigator Karen Devine was there during one hike as the group searched for clues in the disappearance. 

But as deputies search for more solutions, Orbeso said his family will continue to move on after finding their son. 

"Joseph is a protector, as well as a kind and caring person," Gilbert said. "We can't be judgmental right away until you get more facts."

Bachmann couldn't comment on the condition of the gun or how long Orbeso had owned it. 

Saturday, Nguyen's family said they hold no grudges against Joseph Orbeso, and went on to say investigators believed the two died in a "sympathetic murder-suicide." 

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