Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27/17]

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby zippetydude » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:05 pm

Here's a question for those of you who seem to know inside knowledge about the case: Do you know where the gunshots were actually directed and by whom? That could tell us a tremendous amount about motive. For example, if there were powder contamination on one hand of each of the individuals, indicating that they both fired the weapon, then it would most likely be a double suicide, not murder suicide, especially if the shots were directed towards an area that would obviously be lethal. It is my understanding that the residue is not something that quickly fades away, so it is possible that it will be detectable even months later.

Similarly, the path of the bullet will be detectable both due to chemical residue if the firing was at close range and from the damage left behind to clothing, any remaining muscles, tendons, etc., and of course any obvious path through bone. For example, if she died from a bullet severing an artery in her lower leg, it would argue strongly for an accident, followed by a suicide from guilt. Other locations would indicate other scenarios. Any evidence of a defensive posture (the bullet passing through an outstretched, shielding hand and then through a lethal area) would strongly argue for malicious intent. And of course there are many other scenarios which would have other indications, some of them not indicative of anything. But it would quite possibly shed a great deal of light on the circumstances.

So, anyone know anything? Also, I've seen a few folks mention that they have the location where they were found on a map. Would you be willing to post that map with the location indicated?

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:44 pm

Zip,

I took the Final Location coordinates from this discussion, I think Ric Capucho posted them:

N34.1017, W116.2211

I don't know how to transfer my map to this discussion, and my software uses old USGS topos that don't show things like the Maze Loop. You can go to CalTopo.com. After finding the approximate area, enter the Final Location coordinates under Add New Object. The MapBuilder Topo Layer option shows trails.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 6:53 pm

Interesting story about your student from Barstow, Ed. I just wonder how many guns are carried in satchels and packs, even here in CA.

I had about the Wild West character of the Joshua Tree area, but I never realized how much violence happens in the Mohave Desert.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby birgezici » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:39 pm

Ed wrote:Zip,

I took the Final Location coordinates from this discussion, I think Ric Capucho posted them:

N34.1017, W116.2211

I don't know how to transfer my map to this discussion, and my software uses old USGS topos that don't show things like the Maze Loop. You can go to CalTopo.com. After finding the approximate area, enter the Final Location coordinates under Add New Object. The MapBuilder Topo Layer option shows trails.


!+++++++++++++++++

Ed,

Here's Google Map:
https://www.google.com/maps/place/34%C2 ... d-116.2211

Or

I have captured couple screen-shots using Google Earth and they can be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ugef2dafj3e3 ... DA6oa?dl=0
Cheers,

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby cynthia23 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:56 pm

Wow! Thank you very much for your work, Birgezici. It's very helpful.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:46 am

Thanks, Birgezici. I am hesitant to advance an interpretation, but it does look like that wash gives them an easy route down to the outskirts of Joshua Tree. But there could be some interruption of views and rock scrambling that a higher resolution would show. The location seems consistent with an attempt to reach Joshua Tree. Perhaps striking out for the road would have been considerably better.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Sun Oct 29, 2017 7:40 am

Ghostland, An American History in Haunted Places, by Colin Dickey, describes a way of understanding ghosts called "residual haunting", or Stone Tape, in which places photograph or film a past tragedy. It is in a chapter describing Cathedral Park in Portland. It filmed a woman's murder in this sense.

Joshua Tree is such a place. Many ghosts there.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby OtherHand » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:32 am

I've been out of the country while all this broke, and it was hard to probe in to it with just an iPad. But home now and have spent some time with Google Earth and a lot of interesting stuff pops out at me.

First, the cell pings, which have already been covered a bit. Assuming it's Serin tower, distance from their found location was 10.3 miles. Ping one was 8.15 miles and ping two was 11.3 miles. Interestingly, an average of the two pings gives 9.7 miles, which isn't far from final. And it is possible there was movement between the two pings which could account for differing radii. Looking at a splash (coverage) map for the Serin tower shows good cell coverage in that area except for down in the canyons. The biggest hole in the coverage, and it's not very large, was where they were found. Climbing up any of the surrounding slopes just a short distance would have provided a connection.

The canyon they were found in is a north-south short side canyon just south of a substantial, sandy bottomed wash that runs all the way down to Joshua Tree homes. They were a mere 500' up the side canyon from the main wash, and it's an easy downhill walk to the main wash. The main wash may even have been partially visible. The impression that jumped out at me when I first had an opportunity to look at the site was that it was selected for privacy. It makes no sense as being along any sort of through route and would not have been possible to miss the main wash.

The aforementioned main wash drains to wide open, flat residential area of Joshua Tree. It has a wide sandy bottom and is downhill all the way (as washes are known to do) with no dry falls. In fact this same main wash was used by a number of SAR teams to exit the area after searching. The path length from their found location to the first home in Joshua Tree is only 1.8 miles, again, a gentle downhill grade. That's at worst an hour trip. Actually the wash opens up to a big alluvial fan with vistas of many homes after only 1.3 miles from their found location, and wonderful cell coverage. Poking a little further, I found the distance from their final location to their AirBnB to be about 4 miles. It is possible that was the general idea they had. Considering it's generally downhill it looks like a nice through hike. But I don't know how they'd deal with a car shuttle.

The search stuff was fascinating. That area was mostly covered on Monday, July 31. There was a planned team assignment for that day which would have gone right past the mouth of their side canyon, only 210 feet from their location. I've seen no evidence of GPS tracks for this assignment so I suspect it may not have actually been fielded, but merely planned. However that same day a search helicopter, possibly from San Bernardino County Sheriff, flew only 300 feet northerly of them at low altitude.

Now I don't know any of the individuals involved so I have no personal slant and would like to think I'm unbiased in this. And I see nothing to suggest they were trapped in a hopeless situation, far from civilization, destined for an agonizing demise. If they were indeed lost, and had done what typical lost people do (walk downhill), they would have been at someone's front door in an hour. If she were injured and he simply couldn't leave her, he just climbing a couple hundred feet up either side of the not-very-steep canyon would have let him call out.

I understand the comfort the families derive from embracing this "compassionate murder-suicide" scenario. I can even think of a few situations where it could make sense. But this in no way does. There was almost certainly a lot of evidence that we the public will never see (Sheriff investigations have a large FOIA exemption) that could swing it in a certain direction. But it's interesting how people seem to come to firm conclusions in this case when we're all working with the same relatively meager facts. I like to stay with probabilities, and given what is publicly known, the "compassionate" angle seems one of the most unlikely.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Perry » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:34 pm

It bothers me that the helicopter pilot didn't see the bodies and discarded clothes. The helicopter was to the north, and the bodies would have been on the north side of the bush to seek shade. Maybe these things just happen sometimes, but I hope they reviewed the video footage.

And it bothers me that the drones didn't find them. If the SAR data was shared with the person in charge of drone operations, it's very likely they would have searched that area. Maybe that didn't happen.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Myth » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:22 pm

cynthia23 wrote:Yikes, Wildhorse! A thoroughly horrifying read. The most disquieting to me is the murder of the young man last seen in Baker. Some of those ramshackle tiny Mojave towns like Johannesburg are really, really creepy--like Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre creepy. You feel stopping in them would be very unwise.

I sometimes wonder how the indigenous Chemehuevi/Mohave people kept their sanity. Their population density even pre-contact was very low--a few thousand people scattered across thousands of empty miles of desert. No roads, no police, no hospitals, no grocery stores. Just a silent, empty, mostly waterless desert filled with sharp, spiny, plants and venomous or predatory animals and the tiny band of your relatives. I know it was the world they were born into, the only world they knew, but still ... some of their petroglyphic art is very disturbing and seems to reflect a deep sense of terror.


I love how different two people's perception of the same thing can be!

I love the desert. I love the desolation, the glacial indifference to my own harried existence. In such a dry climate, things grow slowly and change slowly, and I love it. Only when I leave roads, police, hospitals, and stores behind do I feel my core slowly starting to unwind. Otherwise I'm in a constant state of tension, ready to defend myself against those who are indifferent to me and would see me suffer or die to further their own ends. Not necessarily criminal elements, even. Every day at work I have to fight for my slice of the pie, with people I like as colleagues, every night I have to read about powerful people wanting to make decisions that might hurt me.

In the desert every spike, every spine is deliberate. It cost a plant energy to grow this defense mechanism, and now it is before me - stark, elegant, timeless. All life wants to live - and in the desert, where life is sparse and hardened, the thought that I need to take life - plant or animal - to sustain my own takes on a meaningful weight.

The desert holds no terror for me - only calm, stillness, relaxation, an opportunity to look at myself and what is around me, and try to find the meaning behind what I am. When I stop walking, and silence is all around me - no noise, my own footsteps silenced, no sign of life at all ... that is when I can truly start relaxing. None of the venomous animals around me are predatory. If I step on a snake it might bite me but unless I threaten it, it will leave me be. The predators in the desert are not large enough to harm me, as long as I am healthy. A stray mountain lion may consider me a tasty treat, but I am more at risk in an urban or suburban environment than I am at risk to fall prey to a mountain lion in the desert.

Seeking out petroglyphs and pictographs occupy a lot of the spare time I have. Once or twice, I have come across sites that I found disturbing, but most of the time, I have found only a peaceful melancholy, or a deep sense of history and connectedness, at the sites I have visited. Maybe I haven't visited enough sites in the Mojave yet, but so far I have found them to be peaceful. They are often vibrant, disorienting even, with elements overlaid on each other and meandering over the varnished desert rock, but to me that embodies the energy a hallucination or other vision quest might bring, not necessarily the environment the person making the petroglyphs found themselves in.

Thinking back, the most disturbing sites I've visited were all at elevation in the Sierra. One site had an element painted in a pigment that was disturbingly close in color to congealing blood. Another had some anthropomorphic figures appearing to raise out of the ground, and had a really unsettling feel to it.

Now ... small desert towns like Johannesburg? Yeah, I pass them by. But it is because of the human element. These little desert towns are seams between modern civilization and the wilderness, and they do collect all kinds of people.
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