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 Ric Capucho » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:12 pm

Hi All,

From a mixture of websleuths, airbnb, and a few others...

Orbeso/Javier airbnb is at 34.11739, -116.32050 (the infamous earlier “scouting trip”, and also where the fruitcake claimed he saw Orbeso/Nguyen a week or so after they were already dead).

Orbeso/Nguyen stayed at La Casita. 34.12621, -116.28079

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

Postby Wildhorse » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:35 pm

Does anyone know how closely an autopsy could estimate the date(s) they died?

Cynthia, your guess about mental health seems plausible, especially considering the apparent suicide.

I have knew a young man who was depressed. A week into an anti-depressant drug he self-terminated. His social media presence lacked warnings.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:11 pm

cynthia23 wrote:...probably is that way because something is wrong with him--depression, drug use.


Or the onset of schizoprenia and paranoia, which causes a very deep and well-justified depression.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby OtherHand » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:12 pm

So I did a site visit today. Not the sort of thing I'd usually do, but I'm just back from Europe, still getting up at 4 AM and been spending the day laying around rather jetlagged and worthless. A short desert walk sounded good. And this is such a weird case, I wanted to know if there were locations so apparently remote and hopeless they could cause someone to give up all hope (Smith Water Canyon, I'm thinking of you!). I've looked at it via Google Earth and it didn't seem that way, but I've been fooled many times by Google Earth.

I parked near the homes at the northerly park boundary and headed up the alluvial fan, then the primary wash (I'm not including a map and will just use verbal description. Everyone on this site is adept enough to follow along without me showing the yahoos how to get there). At one point a fork is reached, with the primary wash continuing south and a slightly smaller wash coming in from the left (east). Based on the clue descriptor of "two tracks" in the primary wash just a short distance south of this junction of washes, it suggests they were heading downstream in the primary wash then made a hard right turn and started back uphill in this secondary wash. Looking at the site, there isn't any apparent reason to make such a crazy move.

After a short distance up the secondary wash, a dry waterfall is reached, which isn't obvious on Google Earth. This underscores the benefits of a site visit. It's not much of an obstacle, as there's a fairly obvious route up to the right allowing someone to easily climb up and around the dry fall area. But here's the interesting thing.....when reaching the top of the dry fall, looking back downstream homes are obvious in the distance. In fact, they look deceptively close. Bypassing this dry fall will provide a clear view of nearby civilization, pretty much guaranteed.

dry_fall_view.jpg
View of homes from the dry fall bypass


Just a short distance further the secondary wash gets very wide and flat, and two canyons join it on its southerly side. The easterly of the two is very distinct, and the westerly one is much smaller and more of a slot. This smaller canyon they ended up in about 400 feet away. Turning back downstream in this secondary wash at this fork junction, homes are again visible in the apparently near distance.

fork_view.jpg
In the secondary wash 400 feet from their final location


Heading up the canyon of their final location I noticed no debris or "stuff" whatsoever. The site had been scrubbed clean. Their final site, under an Acacia (?) tree was obvious to me due to the disturbed earth and a very pronounced and localized odor. My initial sense when looking on a map was the location was selected for privacy and now seeing it on-site my feeling was even more so. There was no apparent reason to be in this fairly short side canyon unless one wanted a secluded, private area. The picture below looks down their small, final location, with their spot circled in red. In the background can be seen the open area of the secondary wash where I took the previous picture.

site_view.jpg


The area has been described in the media as having "30 foot cliffs". Well, yeah, right at the final spot, but it was trivial to find many places to climb up and out of this little canyon and on to the "rim" of the canyon. I did a bit of a circle around and above the site, checking all of the high points. The terrain was pretty simple (much easier than Smith Water) and I didn't even bother to take off my pack. I found I could see the residential area of Joshua Tree from many spots, and I assume cell coverage would have been good (Since I was running T-Mobile and not ATT I didn't bother to check). The image below was taken from the small promontory visible in the previous picture just above and to the right of the red circle. It was close enough to their final location I could have conversed with someone at that spot without raising my voice.

above_site_view.jpg
Their final site is just below this image, in the shade. It is slightly zoomed to better show the homes, but they appear very close to the eye.


In terms of miscellaneous data, it took me less than an hour to reach the site and maybe 45 minutes to get back out. That 45 minutes includes running in to four JOSAR members at the fork into the final canyon, just as they were preparing to enter it. They were rather surprised to see me and likely annoyed at running into a yahoo citizen here, up to who knows what. I never bothered to introduce myself (and they didn't ask) as I couldn't decide whether it would help or hurt things, so we just kept our exchange superficial. From what I gathered, they were going to do a final sweep for any remaining "stuff".

It occurred to me while doing this trip that two 20 somethings should have been taking pics and videos on their phones throughout. And if things ended up so grim that they felt their survival unlikely, one might expect they'd leave lengthy goodbye messages or videos to family and friends on their phones (The instance of Ed Rosenthal writing messages on his hat comes to mind). There has never been a mention of this by the Sheriff's Office which suggest they don't exist. Such messages would back up the idea of a compassionate murder-suicide and thus be, one would think, important.

I also gave some thought to the speculation of possible drug use disorienting them or causing mental issues. To get to their final site would have required a number of hours depending upon their route. All drugs are going to wear off in 4 to 8 hours, depending on what (or even if) was used, so by the end of the day they would have been back to their original states. Add to that the type of drugs that might be used by 20 somethings in this sort of environment and it's hard to come up with anything that would create murderous, suicidal tendencies. Well, maybe Bath Salts, but that wouldn't be a drug of choice for this demographic.

There were fairly fresh footprints going in and out of the canyon. I'd guesstimate 3 to 6 persons visited the site over the weekend.

I mentioned in an earlier post that a helicopter had passed within 300' of their final location and missed them. Having now seen the site I'd cut the copter some slack. They were probably checking the larger wash just down from their final site, and would have only have had a sight line up their canyon for an extremely brief amount of time. If you look at the image with their location circled, the copter would have passed from the left to the right over the larger wash in the background. There wouldn't have been any expectation they'd be in a small, offshoot side canyon that didn't go anywhere.

This is getting a bit long, so I'll wrap it up. If there are questions, I'll try and answer based upon what I saw. I have a lot more pics, but I'm being discrete about what I post. I won't be posting anything on my website about this, just here.

Nothing that I saw at the site suggested to me it was a horribly rugged and remote place where one might give up all hope. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Civilization appeared extremely close and impossible to miss. I don't know for a fact, but it seems ATT cell coverage would be available to much of the area except the very bottom of canyons.

To reach their final spot, they would have either used the washes to get there (along my route) or came northbound over the rugged rock hills to the south. The latter seems insane, but if it were the case then they'd know how close to civilization they were and would also have fantastic cell coverage. Using the washes still offers a view of the Joshua Tree homes atop the dry waterfall bypass and well as many spots within a few hundred feet of their final location.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Tue Oct 31, 2017 5:12 pm

Thanks, OtherHand, you certainly confirmed that this was not a remote, hopeless place. Not quite 'halfway down the tram road', to use my analogy, but not too far from that. Given the location of their car, you would think their approach was from the south. But regardless of whether the objective was a view of the night lights of Joshua Tree, a location for a drug trip, or a murder-suicide, why come so far down? That puzzles me.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Tue Oct 31, 2017 5:14 pm

Otherhand, that is quite illuminating and seems to confirm the doubts that this was a sympathetic murder.

Many stories could explain the murder. Considering the location, I wonder if the outing was effectively a kidnapping that ended in murder. If SAR found their footprints, I wonder who was walking in front.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby OtherHand » Tue Oct 31, 2017 5:29 pm

I'm undecided as to how they could have ended up when they were. They could certainly been lost. The main north-south wash runs all the way up to the Maze Loop trail, and I suppose they could have got into it there. It does seems the most likely route as it would have kept them out of cell coverage for the duration. Any cross country journey over any terrain with elevation would have pinged cell towers. But why turn up the secondary wash and head away from the residential area?

Another possibility might be they were attempting a through hike back to their AirBnB. If it wasn't stinkin' hot, and they had a second vehicle (I don't know if they drove separately) they could drive back up and retrieve the vehicle at the trailhead. That actually sounds like a fun hike to me, primarily downhill.

A more sinister possibility, which considers premeditation and the previous "scouting trip" Orbeso made along Hwy 62, was that he planned to use that specific route (the main wash) and to ultimately use it as an escape route. Clearly that last part didn't happen but I don't know if it is simply a wrong conjecture or he had a change of heart on the escape plan. But their final location would have been ideal to pull something like that off.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:22 am

Earlier in this thread, before their bodies were found, the wash was discussed as the list likely escape route for someone to flee the park from maze.

Perry mentioned the possibility of a double murder. Does anyone know the basis for the sheriff's apparent belief that this was not the case?
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby OtherHand » Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:13 am

Apparently the four JOSAR guys I ran into were doing a video. This gives more flavor of the terrain.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:27 am

Is it plausible that they entered the side canyon seeking shade, or mutually seeking a place to terminate their lives?

Is it plausible that both were suicidal and planned this day?
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