Man believes bodies in Joshua Tree National Park are those of son, girlfriend

The father of a missing Lakewood man said he believes the bodies of his son and his son’s girlfriend have been found in Joshua Tree National Park, near the area where they vanished while hiking three months ago.

Officials did not immediately confirm the identities of the two adult bodies discovered Sunday in rugged terrain near a popular trail in the desert park.

But Gilbert Orbeso, who was with searchers when the discovery was made, told KESQ-TV they are those of his son, Joseph Orbeso, 21, of Lakewood and his girlfriend, Rachel Nguyen, 20, of Westminster.

“I feel like we have closure. We know we found them. That was our main goal, to find them,” said Gilbert Orbeso, who frequently joined the months-long search efforts that involved family members, friends, volunteers and law enforcement on the ground and in helicopters.

Orbeso and Nguyen were reported missing July 28, after they failed to check out of their accommodations near the park. Authorities said a ping from Orbeso’s cellphone had been recorded in the park the previous day. The couple’s car was later found in the park.

Temperatures topped 100 degrees in late July and it was unclear whether the couple had water and supplies with them.

Daylight faded following the discovery Sunday, so authorities planned to recover the bodies Monday, said Jodi Miller, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Autopsies will determine the causes of death, she said.

In a Facebook post before the bodies were discovered Sunday, Gilbert Orbeso wrote: “Searching for Joseph and Rachel. God protect and give us strength.”

“I believed that I was going to find them. I didn’t know when, but I had my answer,” Gilbert told KESQ.


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