News Release

Bodies Discovered in Joshua Tree National Park Identified

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: October 20, 2017
Contact: Jennie Kish Albrink, 928-638-0520

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Twentynine Palms, CaliforniaOn Sunday, October 15, 2017 at approximately 11:30 a.m., Joshua Tree Search and Rescue (JOSAR) discovered two bodies in a remote region of Joshua Tree National Park. Park rangers and JOSAR responded.

Due to suspicious circumstances, detectives from the San Bernardino County Specialized Investigations Division – Homicide Detail also responded to the area.  The bodies were transferred to the San Bernardino County Coroner on Monday, October 16.

The decedents were identified as Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, both of Orange County. During the autopsy, the coroner identified injuries consistent with a gunshot wound on both Nguyen and Orbeso. Evidence suggests that Orbeso shot Nguyen and then shot himself. An investigation into these actions is ongoing.

The couple was initially identified as missing on July 28, 2017 when a local bed and breakfast owner reported they had not returned to check out of their room. The owner remembered that the couple mentioned hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. National Park Service (NPS) rangers and JOSAR initiated a search and located the couple’s vehicle at the Maze Loop trailhead. Recognizing the need for additional resources, NPS made a mutual aid request to San Bernardino County. A large-scale search launched with over 250 searchers, including ground teams, dog teams, and aircraft.

The search transitioned to limited continuous mode on August 6, during which NPS and JOSAR continued search efforts as resources permitted and new information became available.

Anyone with information about this couple should contact San Bernardino County at 909-387-3589, or 1-800-78 CRIME (27463) to remain anonymous. You may leave a tip at

Last updated: October 20, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


(760) 367-5500

Contact Us