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Couple found 'locked in final embrace' after going missing on hike 'died in murder-suicide'

A couple who went missing while hiking in California may have died in a murder-suicide pact, police said.

Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, disappeared in Joshua Tree National Park on July 28.

The alarm was raised when they failed to check out of their AirBnB accommodation.

Their belongings were left behind and police later found their car near a popular trail called the Maze Loop.

Rescue crews and police launched a search investigation but didn't find any trace of the couple.

On Sunday October 15 their bodies were found, locked in a final embrace, near to the Maze Loop after authorities followed a trail of water bottles and food wrappers.

Joseph Orbeso, 21, was described as a "survivalist" by a friend
The couple were visiting Joshua Tree to celebrate Rachel's birthday
Temperatures in Joshua Tree National Park hit 38 degrees in July

Mr Orbeso's father Gilbert took part in the search and confirmed the bodies belonged to the missing couple.

He said they were found locked in an embrace.

"I believed I was going to find them. I didn't know when, but I had my answer today," Gilbert told KABC .

"I hope that they can rest in peace now."

Police now say evidence at the scene suggested that Mr Orbeso shot Ms Nguyen before turning the gun on himself.

A handgun found at the scene was registered to Mr Orbeso and it appeared they were low on food and without water, an official said.

San Bernardino sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the BBC that Mr Orbeso and Ms Nguyen had positioned their clothing to cover their lower legs to protect themselves from the heat.

"The circumstances are really like no other search operation that we've been involved in," Ms Bachman said.

"But there is no evidence that leads [investigators] to believe that he was intending to harm her."

The bodies were found in Joshua Tree National Park on Sunday
Mr Orbeso's father said the pair were locked in a 'final embrace'
Joseph Orbeso

Much of Joshua Tree is designated wilderness and faces extreme temperatures, especially in the summer months.

On the day the couple went missing the area hit nearly 38 degrees.

Authorities fear the couple may have got lost during a hike.

"The way the tracks were picked up indicate these people could be walking in circles, which is not uncommon when people are lost," George Land, a spokesman for Joshua Tree National Park, told the Orange County Register.

Friend Austin Young, 23, said the couple had gone to Joshua Tree to celebrate Rachel's birthday.

He described Joseph, a security guard, as "in very good shape" and "a survivalist."

"He is also the most respectful, honest, and straight-forward person you will ever meet," Mr Young added.

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